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

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Juliana Velandia Santaella on Saturday evening at 10:08 p.m. photographed young women dressed as bananas, hot dogs and fries on the streets of Itaewon. She then decided to return home, going down a narrow alley where she narrowly escaped death.

The 23-year-old medical student from Mexico began to feel crushed by the crowd, which slowly pushed hundreds down the avenue that became the center of the crash that killed at least 154 people and injured 149. Her injuries, which sent her to the emergency room and are still debilitating, show what can happen in a dangerous crowd crush.

Velandia was separated from her friend, Carolina Cano, 21, from Mexico, and began to feel the weight of other people’s bodies crushing her. “At one point my feet didn’t even touch the ground,” she said. “There was an unconscious guy on top of me that was affecting my breathing.

Velandia concentrated on breathing shallowly through her mouth as her lungs began to feel flat. Bystanders screamed for help or called the police, she said, but they eventually fell silent as their bodies went limp above and below her. Caught in a crowd, she remembers being able to move her neck freely because the rest of her body was restrained.

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“I thought, ‘OK, I’ll be next.’ I really thought I was going to die,” she said. “I was completely paralyzed. At some point I couldn’t feel my legs. I couldn’t even move my toes.

She was so stuck, unable to feel her body parts, until a young man standing on a raised ledge grabbed her arms and pulled her out of the crowd. She said she was then able to look at her phone and saw that it was 10:57 p.m

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

She was able to return home, but on Sunday she had a fever and spent four hours at the Catholic University of Korea’s St. Mary’s Hospital emergency room, where she was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a life-threatening condition that involves the muscles. injury and necrosis as cells – in Wellandia’s case, in the leg – begin to die. Muscle tissue releases proteins and electrolytes into the blood and can damage the heart or kidneys or cause permanent disability or death. On Friday, doctors will check her kidneys for damage. Speaking from her dorm room on Monday, she said the pain had gotten worse. One leg is swollen and purple and she cannot put the whole foot on the ground when she walks.

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Even now her chest hurts if she breathes too deeply.

G. Keith Still, a crowd safety expert and visiting professor of crowd science at the University of Suffolk in Britain, told The Post that compression or restraint asphyxiation is the likely cause of many people who die in crowd crushes. It takes about six minutes for people to develop this condition if their lungs don’t have room to expand.

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“People don’t die because they panicked,” he said. “They are panicking because they are dying. So what happens when bodies collapse, when people fall on top of each other, people struggle to stand up, and eventually arms and legs twist.

According to Wellandia, many people were trying to move the bodies to clearer ground to perform CPR as she escaped the crowd. Some people who appeared dead had vomit in and around their mouths, indicating they had choked, she said.

She found her friend Cano, who borrowed a stranger’s cell phone to call her. The two met in front of Itaewon Station, the place where so many partygoers started their Halloween night.

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


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