Mexican survivor of Seoul Halloween crush feared she’d die in Itaewon

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Juliana Velandia Santaella photographed young women dressed as bananas, hot dogs and french fries on the streets of Itaewon at 10:08 pm on Saturday night. Then he decided to go home, down the narrow path where he would escape his death.

A 23-year-old medical student from Mexico began to feel that the crowd was being pushed, which gradually pushed hundreds of people down a road that became the site of an accident that led to at least 154 people died and 149 were sick. His injuries, which sent him to the emergency room and are still suffering, show what can happen when a crowd collides.

Velandia was separated from her friend, 21-year-old Carolina Cano from Mexico, and began to feel the weight of other people’s bodies crushing her. “At that time, my feet didn’t even touch the ground,” he said. “There is an unconscious man on top of me, who is taking my breath away.”

Velandia was concentrating on taking shallow breaths through her mouth as her lungs began to feel as if they were flattened. People around him screamed for help or called the police, he said, but then they fell silent as their bodies rose above and below him. In a crowd, he remembers only being able to move his neck freely as his body was restricted.

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“I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll go ahead.’ I really thought I was going to die,” he said. “I was completely paralyzed. Sometimes, I couldn’t feel my legs. I couldn’t even move my toes.”

He was stuck like that, unable to feel any part of his body, until a young man who stood at a height grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the crowd. He said he was able to look at his phone and saw that it was 10:57 p.m

After a few minutes, he began to regain feeling in his legs. Even so, “there were so many unconscious bodies on the floor that I couldn’t walk,” he said.

He managed to get home, but on Sunday, he developed a fever and spent four hours in the emergency room at St. Mary’s Hospital at the Catholic University of Korea, where he was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a life-threatening condition involving muscle tissue. injury and necrosis as cells – in Velandia’s case, in the leg – begin to die. Muscle spasms release protein and electrolytes into the blood and can damage the heart or kidneys or cause disability or death. On Friday, doctors will check his kidney for damage. Speaking from her dorm room on Monday, she said the pain was getting worse. One leg was swollen and purple, and he could not put his whole foot on the ground when he walked.

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Even now, his chest hurts if he takes a deep breath.

G. Keith Still, a crowd safety expert and research coordinator of the research group at the University of Suffolk in England, told The Post that breathing is difficult or restricted. suffocation is what happens to most people who are killed in mass shootings. It takes about six minutes for people to get into this condition if their lungs don’t have room to expand.

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“People don’t die because they’re scared,” he said. “They are afraid because they are dying. So what happens is, when bodies fall, when people fall on top of each other, people struggle to get up and you end up with arms and legs racing together. “

According to Velandia, several people tried to move the body to the ground to clearly perform CPR when he ran away from the crowd. Some people who seemed lifeless had vomit in their mouths and around them, indicating that they choked, he said.

He found his friend, Cano, who had borrowed a foreigner’s phone to call him. The two met in front of Itaewon Station, where many tourists had started their Halloween night.

“We hugged and we cried a lot when we saw each other, because we thought the other was dead,” Velandia said. “It’s a miracle we’re alive, really.”

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