ROME — The number of people injured when panic swept through a crowd of Juventus fans watching the Champions League final in a Turin piazza has now been confirmed to be over 1,500.
Just 10 minutes from the end of the game, which Juventus lost 4-1 to Real Madrid in Cardiff, a series of bangs led to fears of an attack in the Piedmont city’s historical Piazza San Carlo. People pushed to leave the area as quickly as possible and the stampede led to widespread injuries.
At least one person was carried away on a stretcher and medics treated fans for cuts and other injuries. Two were reportedly in serious condition in hospital — one a child who is in a critical condition at the Regina Margherita children’s hospital.
Selene Scarsi, a journalist for ESPN FC and UEFA, was in the square and spent the night in a Turin hospital after getting caught up in the panic.
“There was a sequence of noises reminiscent of a belt engine and not loud enough to be an explosion, but people suddenly started panicking and screaming that there had been a bomb and a terrorist attack,” she said.
“All of a sudden, I had seven people piling on top of me as I was lying on glass shards on the floor, having lost my glasses, earrings ripped off my ears. I tried to put my arms over my head to protect it. People were obviously not intentionally trying to trample on people — they were doing all they could to avoid you, but falls were just inevitable.”
It has since transpired that the first noise, which had sparked the initial panic, was in fact a temporary metal fence collapsing. However, two firecrackers subsequently set off intentionally by some of the people present led to greater panic.
“Even the police thought it had been a terrorist attack, and for at least an hour after the incidents a police constable was advising uninjured fans to try and leave the town centre as quickly and as safely as possible, repeating that they did not know what had caused the bangs,” said Dr. Scarsi.
“They told us to go to Piazza Castello because they did not know what was happening either. After each firecracker there came a surge of people running to get away, with most trying to take refuge in the entrances to shops and inside a cinema, the Lux, which opened its doors to the people escaping.”
Dr. Scarsi received six stitches and treatment for bruised ribs among hundreds of wounded fans.
“When I arrived, the police were stopping people from taking any glass bottles into the Piazza, so these were confiscated at the entrance,” said Dr Scarsi. “However, inside there were officially licensed sellers selling beer in glass bottles. There was glass everywhere — people were complaining right from the start of the game that they were getting glass stuck in their shoes.
“I am certain that if there had not been such a carpet of glass on the floor, there would not have been anywhere near as many injuries to deal with.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.