South Korea Survivor Describes Crush, Feet Lifted Off Ground



  • A medical student from Mexico survived a deadly crowd surge in Seoul, South Korea over the weekend.
  • Juliana Santaella told The Washington Post said she thought she was going to die in the crush.
  • She said her feet were lifted off the ground and her lungs felt like they were being flattened.

A woman who survived the South Korea crowd surge that killed more than 150 people said people were so densely packed that her feet were lifted off the ground and her lungs felt like they were being flattened.

Juliana Velandia Santaella, a 23-year-old medical student from Mexico, told The Washington Post that she was in the lively Itaewon district in the capital city of Seoul on Saturday night for its Halloween celebrations.

Santaella said she took a picture of three women in costumes shortly after 10 p.m., and she then went down an alleyway to make her way home. But the street was incredibly busy, Santaella said, and she started to feel squeezed by the crowd.

“At some point, my feet weren’t even touching the ground anymore,” she told the Post. “There was an unconscious guy on top of me, which was affecting my breathing.”

Santaella recalled being crushed to the point where the only body part she was able to move freely was her neck as she became stuck with people and below her.

“I thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to be next.’ I really thought I was going to die,” she told The Post. “I was completely paralyzed. At some point, I couldn’t feel my legs. I couldn’t even move my toes.” 

She said she started to focus on taking shallow breaths through her mouth as her lungs began to feel like they were being flattened.

People around her started calling out for help, but how after a few minutes, they progressively fell silent, she added.

Santaella told the Post that she was saved by a young man standing on an elevated ledge who grabbed her arms and pulled her up with him. She said she eventually made it home safely.

But the 23-year-old said she developed a fever overnight and brought herself to the emergency room of a nearby hospital on Sunday.

She said she was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis — a life-threatening condition that the US Centers for Disease Control says “occurs when damaged muscle tissue releases its proteins and electrolytes into the blood.”

This can damage the heart and the kidneys, causing permanent disabilities or death, the CDC says.

At least 154 people are known to have died following the tragic incident, which has left the country in shock, the BBC reported.

Police said they’ve launched a 475-member task force to investigate the crush.



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