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Friday, 11 May, 2001, 02:57 GMT 03:57 UK
Eyewitness: Ghana's football horror
Bodies at Ridge Hospital after stampede
At least 126 people died in the stampede
Yaw Ampofu-Ankra, a journalist in Accra, witnessed Ghana's fatal football stampede

It was exactly 6:45 pm - Accra Hearts of Oak had just scored their second goal, which turned out to be the match winner.

I knew there was going to be some disappointed hot-headed Kotoko supporters who were not going to readily accept the 2-1 score line, especially after the controversial equaliser by Hearts.


There was a pile of bodies that had blocked the entrance of the stairway

But I never imagined that we were going to have the longest, darkest night in African football history.

As I made my way towards the stadium car park I met a lot of hysterical supporters rushing from one of the stands known as "Ade-Coker stand".

"They are killing us! They are killing us!" some of them shouted.

I could sense there was something seriously wrong somewhere, because it wasn't only the losing set of supporters who were running away, but also the victorious Hearts fans.

I made a quick u-turn back towards the press box, which was deserted save for a few security personnel.

Victims

As I quickened my pace towards the area of confusion, I could see people lying helplessly on the ground.

wrecked seats
Seats were wrecked as fans scrambled to flee the tear gas

Three hours of torrential rain earlier in the day had turned the area into messy pools of water.

My heart smashed against my chest as it dawned on me that these people on the floor were either seriously hurt or dead.

I could see both Hearts and Kotoko supporters carrying lifeless bodies from the foot of one of the staircases.

The chairman of Kotoko, Herbert Mensah, was in the thick of the rescue efforts.

But the worst was yet to unfold.

Downward rush

As I made my way towards the staircase, I froze! What I saw is something I will never forget for the rest of my life.

A part of me was urging me to run, another part was telling me to stay. But I just stood motionless, shocked and heavily distressed.


The most appalling look of fear and hopelessness was written across the faces of dying innocent young men

There was a pile of bodies that had blocked the entrance of the stairway, making it impossible for anybody to go up the steps and similarly nobody could come down.

Those coming down were literally being thrown down from a slope of about 50 feet (15 metres).

The iron bars supporting the steps had given way, the banisters were bent with the force of supporters rushing down.

Crushed

The scent of tear gas was still in the air, but the real killer was people being crushed to death.

They were just running away from the stinging tear gas which had been fired into the stands by the police.

The most appalling look of fear and hopelessness was written across the faces of dying innocent young men. They were dying and there was nothing anybody could do to save them.

In the distance, the sirens of police vehicles and ambulances could be heard, but I wondered if it was too late.

By 7:45 pm, approximately an hour after the tragic events began to unfold, I had personally counted 30 dead bodies.

An hour later at the 37 military hospital, 102 deaths had been confirmed.

A terrible disaster had just struck one of Africa's most peaceful nations. By midnight the death toll had risen to 123.

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