The death toll from the weekend crowd crush in Seoul stood at a staggering 156 on Thursday, reports the AP, but it might have been even worse if not for three off-duty US soldiers. Yonhap News Agency credits the trio of Jarmil Taylor, 40, Jerome Augusta, 34, and Dane Beathard, 32, with saving more than 30 lives that night. The men are stationed at Camp Casey near Seoul, and they went to the Itaewon entertainment district on their night off. All were in the narrow alleyway where most of the deaths occurred, but they tell AFP they were able to escape, barely, to a ledgelike area on the side of the alley.
"It started happening—everybody just fell on top of each other like dominoes," Taylor recalls. After the surge ended, the men spent hours pulling survivors from the pile so medics could try to save them. "There were a lot of women in the crowd who got crushed," says Augusta. "I think because they were smaller their diaphragms were crushed. And because they were panicking, which made it more chaotic." One survivor who was pulled to safety tells Yonhap he's now certain it was the Americans who saved him, and he wants to meet them to say thanks.
"The circumstances of the Itaewon disaster and rescue activities that the three US soldiers revealed in their interviews are exactly identical to what I experienced," he says. The Americans say it was often too late when they reached a particular person. "We helped pull people out all night," Beathard tells AFP, adding: "It was a long time for people stuck in there not to breathe." (Read more Seoul stories.)