Partygoers ignored dying girl

 

A teenage girl crushed to death when a crowd of people fell on each other "like dominoes" at a New Zealand house party was reportedly the last thing on the minds of some revellers.

"The whole time people were more interested in trying to force their way into the front door where everyone was getting crushed, we were trying to pull people up and people were trying to force their way in," a male witness, who did not want to be named, told Stuff.

"People were struggling and instead of helping people were way more interested in trying to party."

Victim Sophia Crestani, 19, grew up in Wellington and has an identical twin sister.

She was finishing her second year of study at the University of Otago in Dunedin, with final lectures for the year wrapping up this week, when she attended the party at "The Manor" flat on Saturday night.

Sophia Crestani was carried out of the premises by others. Picture: Facebook
Sophia Crestani was carried out of the premises by others. Picture: Facebook

The same witness told Stuff a massive crowd gathered on the stairs and the people at the top "started falling, it was kind of like dominoes".

One witness told the Otago Daily Times that Ms Crestani "fell, and that's when the panic happened".

"The tears started flooding from everyone else," the partygoer said.

NZ Police Inspector Marty Gray was questioned about reports of a stairway collapsing, but said "there are no structural issues, at this stage of our inquiry, that attributed to this incident".

"Ambulance and police were called to a Dundas St property just before midnight after the occupants had called for assistance to shut down a party," he told reporters.

"On police arrival, a large number of people were in the process of leaving the property, and there were reports of people being injured as they did so."

Picture: 1 News Now TVNZ
Picture: 1 News Now TVNZ

He confirmed Ms Crestani had died as a result of injuries suffered during the party.

"When our officers arrived there was … about 500 or 600 partygoers, a lot of them anxious, a lot of them trying to get out of the premises, a lot of them trying to get in the premises, a lot of disorganisation, a lot of uncertainty, a lot of anxiety," Insp Gray said.

"The victim was carried out of the house by other people and resuscitation attempts were made at that time."

Two other students were injured in the pileup but are expected to make a full recovery.

Insp Gray said the young woman's death at the party was "the news no parent wants to hear".

Inspector Marty Gray said hundreds of people were trying to get in and out of the premises. Picture: 1 News Now TVNZ
Inspector Marty Gray said hundreds of people were trying to get in and out of the premises. Picture: 1 News Now TVNZ

Ms Crestani's parents released a statement describing the situation as "a very difficult time".

"We are grieving the loss of our beautiful daughter and so is the community which Sophia knew and cared for," Bede and Elspeth Crestani said on Tuesday morning.

"We ask that our privacy is respected at this very sad time.

"Sophia's funeral will be private and we ask that all media respects this."

Flowers have been left in a hedge outside the Dunedin property. Picture: University of Otago Facebook
Flowers have been left in a hedge outside the Dunedin property. Picture: University of Otago Facebook

The university has encouraged students with any information about the "tragic events" to come forward to authorities.

"The police would still like to speak to anyone who attended the party at The Manor on Saturday to help them better understand the events of the night," a post on the University of Otago's official Facebook page reads.

"Any information about the night from those who were there is appreciated, so please make a statement if you have not already done so."

Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne met with Sophia's parents, who flew in from outside of Dunedin, and described them as "simply remarkable people".

"In the midst of their own grief I admire their courage and their generosity in helping us to look after the students who are most severely affected by this tragedy," Prof Hayne told reporters.

The university will reportedly lease the property, previously student accommodation, next year.

📌 We extend the deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the victim of last night’s Dundas flat party. We...

Posted by OUSA - Otago University Students' Association on Saturday, 5 October 2019

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has also commented on the "extraordinary tragedy".

"At this point in time, my thoughts are with the family and the friends of the young woman affected," Ms Ardern said.

"First and foremost, what we need is clarity around what exactly has occurred here and I know the university will be as interested in that as we are.

"For now, now is the time just for those condolences and those thoughts to be sent to the family of the young woman affected."

Sophia's parents asked the university to hold a street clean-up in North Dunedin on Sunday.

"After the tragic events of the past weekend which have rocked the student and great Dunedin community we encourage everyone to come together in support," the University of Otago said.

The University of Otago is asking partygoers to talk to police. Picture: 1 News Now TVNZ
The University of Otago is asking partygoers to talk to police. Picture: 1 News Now TVNZ
Dozens of shoes littered the street after the party. Picture: 1 News Now TVNZ
Dozens of shoes littered the street after the party. Picture: 1 News Now TVNZ