Police chief not informed of crowd crush before going to bed Saturday night

SEOUL– The nation’s police chief was not notified of the occurrence of the tragic crowd crush in Seoul’s Itaewon district until he went to bed Saturday night, police said Friday.

Yoon Hee-keun, commissioner general of the National Police Agency (NPA), was visiting the North Chungcheong Province city of Jecheon, about 170 km southeast of Seoul, at the time of the crowd crush and fell asleep around 11 p.m. without receiving any report on the accident, they said.

In other words, people crammed into a narrow Itaewon alleyway began to die about 45 minutes earlier and the police chief went to bed without knowing about the unfolding disaster in Seoul.

Yoon received a text message on massive casualties in Itaewon from the NPA’s emergency situation officer at 11:32 p.m. but failed to read it. Twenty minutes later, the NPA officer called again, but Yoon did not answer.

Yoon and the NPA officer finally talked on the phone at 12:14 a.m. Sunday, and the police chief immediately departed for Seoul. Five minutes later, Yoon called the chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency to order an all-out effort to cope with the disaster.

Due to the long travel time, Yoon was able to preside over a meeting of police commanders on the Itaewon crowd crush at 2:30 a.m. Sunday.

President Yoon Suk-yeol received his first report on the accident at 11:01 p.m., while Minister of Interior and Safety Lee Sang-min, who oversees the police, first learned of the accident at 11:20 p.m.

Taken together, the police chief was given a report on the accident 12 minutes later than his superior, Minister Lee, indicating that police’s crisis management and command systems seemed to be in disarray at the time of the Itaewon disaster.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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