Velandia was separated from her friend, 21-year-old Carolina Cano of 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 anymore,” she said. “There was an unconscious man on top of me, which affected my breathing.”
Velandia concentrated on taking shallow breaths through her mouth as her lungs began to feel like they were being crushed. People around her screamed for help or called for the police, she said, but then they gradually fell silent as their bodies went limp above and below her. She was stuck among a lot of people and remembers that she could only move her neck freely while the rest of her body was held.
“I thought, ‘Okay, I’m next.’ I really thought I was going to die,” she said. “I was completely paralyzed. At one point I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. I couldn’t even move my toes.”
She was so trapped, unable to feel parts of her body, until a young man standing on a raised ledge grabbed her arms and yanked her out of the crowd. She said she could look at her phone then and saw it was 10:57 pm
After a few minutes, she began to have feeling in her legs again. Even then, “there were so many unconscious bodies on the floor that I couldn’t even walk,” she said.
She managed to get home, but on Sunday she developed a fever and spent four hours in the emergency room at St. Mary’s Hospital of the Catholic University of Korea, where she was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a life-threatening condition involving muscles. to be. injury and necrosis as cells – in the case of Velandia, in the leg – begin to die. The 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 check her kidneys for damage. She said from her dorm on Monday that the pain has gotten worse. One leg is swollen and purple, and she can’t put her whole foot on the floor when walking.
Even now her chest hurts when 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 compressive or restrictive suffocation is the likely cause for most people who die in a crowd crush. . It takes about six minutes for people to get into this state if their lungs don’t have room to expand.
“People don’t die because they panicked,” he said. “They panic because they are dying. So what happens is when bodies fall over, when people fall on top of each other, people struggle to get up and you end up with arms and legs getting twisted together.”
According to Velandia, many people tried to move bodies to clearer grounds to perform CPR as she escaped the crowd. Some of the people who appeared lifeless had vomit in their mouths and around them, suggesting they were suffocating, she said.
She found her boyfriend, Cano, who borrowed a stranger’s cell phone to call her. The two met in front of Itaewon station, the place where so many revelers had started their Halloween night.
“We hugged and we cried a lot when we saw each other because we really thought the other was dead,” said Velandia. “It’s a miracle we’re still alive, really.”