Chaos in Shanghai as Beckham event sparks stampede


David Beckham fans get crushed in a stampede at Tonji University in Shanghai on June 20, 2013.

AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS



Full coverage of the stampede is available here.

By Peter Parks


I covered a David Beckham press conference this morning -- but there wasn’t much to work with in terms of making a decent photograph. So I was hoping the football superstar's planned visit later in the day to Tonju University would be a little more eventful.

I didn't expect it to be quite so dramatic.

Beckham waves as fans mass at Tonji University. Seven people were hurt in the stampede.

AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS

When I arrived, Beckham was touring a faculty building, but a sizable crowd of mostly students had already gathered outside. They were held back by a flimsy police line at the end of the road. I suspected there was no way the police could keep the crowd from getting closer. Sure enough, they didn't.

Beckham was supposed to have a kickabout with some under-15 footballers from a local Shanghai club youth team. The pitch was about 50 metres from the faculty building, but as soon as fans saw his black Bentley they stormed the meager police line and surrounded his car.

The police were not happy. After that, chaos ensued.

Beckham's car is surrounded.

AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS

Beckham's car is surrounded

AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS

I'm not sure why this was allowed to carry on. Here was one of the world’s most famous people and suddenly his car is completely surrounded by fans. Somehow, Beckham’s handlers had to get him out and onto the football pitch.

This is the ludicrous bit. They pull up to a gate in the tall metal fence, open it and Beckham steps out. He is ushered onto the pitch. The fans, of course, follow.

Beckham is ushered away from the thronging crowd and towards the pitch where he was supposed to have a kickabout.

AFP PHOTO / STR

But there’s no room. I saw what was going to happen and got through the gate as fast as I could, but only just. If I had delayed for a second, I would have been stuck in the crowd. I could see people pushed up against the fence with nowhere go.

Suddenly, as the crowd surged, people were falling to the ground, but others kept coming and trampled over them. I could see people were in distress -- people squashed like that don’t last long. I stopped shooting and pulled at least one person out.

People fall in the stampede.

AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS

Fortunately, the police made up for their earlier shortcomings and quickly pushed people back. Those on the ground were saved.

I saw a policewoman who obviously took the full weight of the crowd and was lying face down. When they picked her up there was a pool of blood coming out of her nose and mouth. I hope she's OK. The rest of the planned events were cancelled, of course.

This could have turned out a lot worse but thankfully it didn't. With a bit more anticipation, it wouldn't have happened at all.

Police try to control the crowd.

AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS

A policewoman is treated for injuries after being crushed in the stampede

AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS


Parks has been an AFP photographer for 17 years, in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai.