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My son didn’t reply to my texts – then I found out he died in Seoul stampede that killed 153, says devastated dad

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AN American student killed in a stampede during a Halloween celebration in Seoul was on his “first big adventure”, his devastated father revealed.
Steven Blesi’s dad, Steve, frantically called and texted his 20-year-old son after hearing the news of the horrific crush – only for a police officer to eventually answer the phone.
Steven Blesi, an American student, was among 153 people killed in the stampede8Steven Blesi, an American student, was among 153 people killed in the stampedeCredit: InstagramThe street in Itaewon district pictured full of people before the stampede8The street in Itaewon district pictured full of people before the stampedeCredit: ReutersDozens of people suffered cardiac arrest in the popular district of Itaewon in Seoul8Dozens of people suffered cardiac arrest in the popular district of Itaewon in SeoulCredit: AFPPolice officers examine the scene two days after the deadly crush8Police officers examine the scene two days after the deadly crushCredit: EPAThe student, from Georgia, was among 153 people killed in the stampede on Saturday night as more than 100,000 people rammed into a popular party district of Itaewon in the South Korean capital.
Steve, 62, said his son, a Kennesaw State University student studying abroad, told him he had finished his exams and he was going out to celebrate with pals.
The heartbroken dad told The Washington Post: “I just said, ‘listen, be safe. I love you’. And that was the last text between us.”
After hearing the news of the stampede from his other son, Steve said the family were “constantly calling and calling and calling and calling with no answer”.

“[That] scared the hell out of us,” he said.
A police officer eventually answered Steven’s phone and told them it had been found in the area where the deadly surge happened.
Dad Steve spent the next few hours desperately ringing the US Embassy, finding contacts in the study abroad program, and even posted a picture of his son on Twitter.
They hoped Steven might be in hospital – but instead they got a call confirming the worst.

“I just never thought something like this would happen,” Steve said.
“I can’t understand how they didn’t have crowd control. I don’t even know how the hell it happened.”
Steve said his son had dreamed of spending a semester abroad – and his dream came true in August when they dropped him off at the airport and waved goodbye.
“He was an extrovert, he was full of adventure. And this was his first big adventure,” he said.
The devastated dad said his family have been left “shattered”.
“Living with this the rest of our lives is going to be very difficult,” he said.
He told the New York Times: “I texted him maybe a half-hour before all this happened, and I said, ‘I know you’re out and about. Be safe’.
“I never got a reply to that.”
Anne Gieske, a 20-year-old American college student, was also among those who died in the crush.
University president Eli Capilouto said: “There aren’t adequate or appropriate words to describe the pain of a beautiful life cut short.
“It isn’t fair, nor is it comprehensible. It is loss and it hurts in ways that are impossible to articulate.”
Gieske, a nursing student, shared a tragic post celebrating her 20th birthday by the Han River just moments before the fatal accident.
Her dad, Dan, told NBC News the family were “completely devastated and heartbroken” by the loss of their daughter – describing her as “bright light loved by all”.
Grace Rached, 23, a Sydney-based producer who had been travelling in the lead-up to her birthday, also died in the crush, 7News reports.
Grace’s family said their “beautiful Grace” was the “life of the party”.
Anne Gieske shared a tragic post celebrating her 20th birthday just moments before the fatal accident8Anne Gieske shared a tragic post celebrating her 20th birthday just moments before the fatal accidentCredit: InstagramAnne's dad said the family were 'completely devastated and heartbroken'8Anne’s dad said the family were ‘completely devastated and heartbroken’Credit: InstagramGrace Rached, 23, a Sydney-based producer, died in the horrific crush8Grace Rached, 23, a Sydney-based producer, died in the horrific crushCredit: InstagramShe was travelling in the lead-up to her 24th birthday8She was travelling in the lead-up to her 24th birthdayCredit: Instagram“We are missing our gorgeous angel Grace who lit up a room with her infectious smile. Grace always made others feel important, and her kindness left an impression on everyone she ever met,” they said.
“Grace always cared about others, and she was loved by all.”
In a heartbreaking TikTok video, Grace’s friend Nathan Taverniti described how he “was there when she said she couldn’t breathe”.
Nathan said: “There was no stampede. It was a slow and agonising crush. My friends were being crushed in front of me and I couldn’t do anything about it.
“This crush was not caused by drunk people. It was a lack of planning from the police force and emergency services, and nobody was willing to help.
“I watched as people sang and filmed and laughed while my friends were dying, along with many other people.
“Nobody was doing anything to make the crowd stop.”
Choi Boseong, 24, had been partying with two pals for his birthday when he was caught in the stampede and died.
According to the New York Post, his friends called his girlfriend in the US after realising he was missing.
Excited teenagers and young adults had poured into the South Korea capital to enjoy the first unrestricted Halloween celebrations in three years since Covid regulations were lifted.
But instead they found themselves caught up in a terrifying stampede as the festivities had attracted a dangerous amount of people.
Tragically, at least 153 people were declared dead with a further 82 injured.
South Korean officials said the deaths included 26 foreigners from China, Iran, Russia, France, the US, Australia, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Austria, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Norway.
Of those killed, 97 were women and 57 were men. Four victims were just teenagers, while 96 were in their 20s, South Korea’s Interior and Safety Ministry reported.
But it’s feared the death toll could rise further with at least 33 people in critical condition, officials said.
The US embassy in Seoul has confirmed two US citizens were among those killed.
Shortly before 10.20pm, the situation became out of control as a stampede broke out as people were forced down the tight, sloped alleyway after it was already packed wall-to-wall with people.
Those at the top of the 147ft long pathway started to fall, sending people below them toppling over others.
Panicked revellers became trapped and struggled to breathe before many went into cardiac arrest.
Olivia Jacovic, a 27-year-old Australian living in Seoul, was caught up in the stampede and managed to escape.
She told Channel Nine: “It was just shoulder-to-shoulder, people couldn’t breathe the shorter people were trying to look up in the air to get some air.”
Horrifying footage shared on social media showed some people trying to scale the sides of the buildings to escape the increasing pressure, as others desperately cried out for help.
One witness described the number of bodies piling up as looking like a “tomb”.
Despite the horror unfolding just 320ft from the closest fire station, emergency workers were faced with a battle to reach victims because of traffic congestion and overcrowding.
Videos shared online showed a pile of bodies wedged between buildings, some at the bottom appearing unconscious, while others reached out to medics who grappled to free them from the crush.
Rescuers were filmed trying to pull people trapped underneath dead bodies as field hospitals were thrown up to deal with hundreds of casualties.
Survivors were also seen strewn across the pavement wrapped in foil blankets to stay warm following the crush.
Police have set up a task force to probe the cause of the tragedy, examining CCTV from businesses close to the scene and interviewing dozens of witnesses.
The disaster is the country’s deadliest since a 2014 ferry sinking that killed 304 people, mainly high school students.
In the wake of the incident, venues across the country decided to pull the plug on Halloween-themed events.
Devastated relatives and friends of victims have left floral tributes at the scene.

South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol declared a period of national mourning on Sunday, describing the crush as “truly tragic”.
He said: “A tragedy and disaster that should not have happened took place in the heart of Seoul last night.”

Story Credit: thesun.co.uk

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