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'I want justice,' says man whose relatives died during Indonesia’s football tragedy

At least 125 people died in Malang when a stampede happened after the police fired tear gas at the end of the match. Survivors are demanding that the authorities be held accountable.  

'I want justice,' says man whose relatives died during Indonesia’s football tragedy

Supporters of soccer club Arema FC pray for victims of Saturday's soccer match stampede outside the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, Indonesia, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. Panic at an Indonesian soccer match Saturday left over 100 people dead, most of whom were trampled to death after police fired tear gas to stop the violence. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

MALANG, Indonesia: It was supposed to be a fun and memorable outing for Doni and his family.

But now, he will always remember last Saturday (Oct 1) for the wrong reasons.

Doni's brother-in-law and his wife died on that day when they attended a football match between Surabaya’s Persebaya and Arema FC in the latter’s home stadium Kanjuruhan in Malang, East Java. The match ended in chaos and at least 125 people were killed.

“We just wanted to watch the game and enjoy it. Otherwise, why would we bring our children along?” Doni, who goes by one name, told CNA from his family home in Malang. 

He attended the match with his 10-year-old son and eight other family members.

The group included his brother-in-law Mochammad Yulianton, Yulianton’s wife Devi Ratnasari and their only child Mochammad Alfiansyah, 11.

Some other relatives also joined them. There were three children in the group of 10.

“When the match ended, the Arema players were still on the pitch. 

“It is their tradition to greet the fans after a game whether they lose or win, it is usual,” said Doni, who as an Arema FC fan has watched the club’s numerous games.

“But suddenly people stormed the pitch. Security personnel tried to block them but instantly the crowd became bigger,” Doni recalled. 

They were seated about 5m from the exit door but as people jostled to exit, they decided to wait, he said. 

He recalled security personnel firing tear gas toward the crowd on the pitch that caused the panic, with people storming towards the stadium’s exit doors.   

“We were still sitting in our seats when suddenly tear gas was also fired towards us. That’s when I instinctively grabbed the three children, and we rushed towards the exit,” said Doni. 

Doni with his nephew, Mochammad Alfiansyah, 11, who lost his parents in the post-match stampede at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, Indonesia, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (Photo: CNA/Kiki Siregar)

“MY HEART BECAME WEAK” 

The situation became extremely heated with people pushing each other as they tried to leave the stadium.

The exit doors were small and could only allow one person to pass through at a time. Furthermore, some of the doors were locked, claimed Doni. 

He lost sight of his family but had his son with him all along during the stampede.  

Doni said that he struggled to get through the exit after falling down a few times until he finally reached the exit door. 

Outside the stadium, he saw 11-year-old Alfiansyah but without his parents.

“Suddenly I saw people carrying a woman with trousers I believe were the same as the one worn by Devi,” said Doni. 

“It was indeed her, but her face had bruised.”

Not too long afterwards, Doni saw people carrying his brother-in-law, Yulianton. 

As the situation around the stadium was chaotic, people shouted at him and told him to follow them to a medical room in the stadium.

The room, according to Doni, was filled with bodies, probably about 50 of them, lying on the floor. 

Doni said that while he was still physically strong enough to walk, his heart became weak upon seeing the bodies and decided to leave the room almost immediately. 

Not long afterwards, Doni was informed by his other relatives that both Yulianton and Devi had died.

“LAWS NEED TO BE UPHELD”: STAMPEDE VICTIM 

Doni claimed that the security personnel fired tear gas at least twice at his seating gallery and other galleries except those in the VIP areas. 

“I regret that happened. Didn’t they think that my seating area was safe enough?” Doni asked.  

“But because of their tear gas, people started to panic and ran away."

Doni also noted that the stadium was overcrowded and he claimed to have seen people who came in without tickets.

“A lot of people also smelled of alcohol,” said Doni, although he added that this was quite common during matches. 

On Monday, security coordinating minister Mohammad Mahfud announced that the government is forming an independent fact-finding team to look into the causes that contributed to Saturday’s stampede and to come up with recommendations to avoid the recurrence of similar incidents. 

Doni and his surviving relatives want the authorities to be held accountable for the stampede and insist that everyone must uphold the law. 

“I want justice. It is normal that people apologise if they did something wrong but there are laws here that need to be upheld,” Doni said.

Source: CNA/ks(ih)

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