Suffocation and Brain Damage Killed Most of 158 Dead in Seoul Crowd Crush, Investigation Finds

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Lee Jin-man/AP/Shutterstock (13554017j) Rescue workers wait to carry victims on the street near the scene in Seoul, South Korea, . Scores of people were killed and others were injured as they were crushed by a large crowd pushing forward on a narrow street during Halloween festivities in the capital, South Korean officials said Halloween Crowd Surge, Seoul, South Korea - 29 Oct 2022
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Lee Jin-man/AP/Shutterstock (13554017j) Rescue workers wait to carry victims on the street near the scene in Seoul, South Korea, . Scores of people were killed and others were injured as they were crushed by a large crowd pushing forward on a narrow street during Halloween festivities in the capital, South Korean officials said Halloween Crowd Surge, Seoul, South Korea - 29 Oct 2022

Lee Jin-man/AP/Shutterstock

Police in South Korea are seeking criminal charges against 23 officials for involuntary manslaughter and negligence in the crowd surge that killed nearly 160 people in October, multiple news outlets report.

Suffocation and brain damage due to a lack of oxygen, according to The New York Times, were determined to be the cause of death in most of the fatalities.

Among the officials recommended for charges, AP News reports that nearly half are law enforcement officers who are being blamed for an alleged lack of safety measures that Halloween day.

RELATED: Emergency Calls to Police Were Placed Hours Before Deadly South Korea Crowd Surge: 'People Are Going to Die'

South Korea's National Police Agency's special investigation into the incident was headed by Son Je-han, who said Friday he was now handing the KNPA case over to prosecutors. Mayor of Seoul's Yongsan district, Park Hee-young, was one person recommended for indictment, along with Lee Im-jae, the district's former police chief. Both have reportedly been arrested.

According to Reuters, opposition lawmakers and the bereaved families have criticized the investigation thus far, saying that they want justice.

"We have so many questions unanswered," Lee Jong-chul, a rep for the group representing the families told reporters in Seoul at the prosecutors' office. "We came here to give a victim's statement, expecting a better, expanded investigation."

Halloween Stampede In South Korea
Halloween Stampede In South Korea

Liu Xu/China News Service via Getty

Several hours before the crowd surge that day, panicked warning calls were made to policeThe Washington Post reported, citing transcripts released the following day.

Seoul's mass-casualty incident — which also injured nearly 200, according to the AP — prompted South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol to order his government to provide disaster medical emergency assistance, the BBC, The New York Times and CNN reported.

"The top priority is to evacuate and save the victims. We should take them to urgent medical treatment as quickly as possible," the president said to his cabinet, per The New York Times. However, they were tragically much too late for scores of Halloween revelers.

At approximately 6:34 p.m., the string of desperate pleas started rolling in.

RELATED: K-Pop Singer Lee Jihan, 24, Killed in South Korea Halloween Crowd Tragedy

"There are a lot of people going up and down this alley. I'm very nervous about it," one caller said, expressing fear over the worsening situation in the capital city's Itaewon district. "I think people might be crushed. I barely escaped, but there are too many people. I think you need to intervene."

At 8:09 p.m., another caller reported that party-goers were injured. "There are so many people here. … It's crazy. People are getting hurt."

As more time passed, the cries for help kept getting more intense and panicked, according to the transcripts. "Here, we're about to be crushed," another caller reportedly said. "It is chaos ... [audible screams]. In Itaewon, in the back road."

Halloween Stampede In South Korea
Halloween Stampede In South Korea

SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty

Emergency personnel reportedly didn't arrive to the scene to start controlling the crowd until around 11 p.m., a little over four hours after the concerned callers began asking for help.

RELATED: 2 U.S. College Students Killed in South Korea Crowd Crush, Families Say They're 'Devastated' and 'Heartbroken'

South Korean media outlets reported that the area was too congested for police to get anywhere near the scene, but many event attendees criticized the lack of personnel they had assigned to the event in the first place, which attracted over 100,000 people to celebrate Halloween in Seoul's popular nightlife district, according to the Post.

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Steven Blesi, 20, of Marietta, Ga., was studying abroad in the country when he was killed in the incident over the weekend, his dad Steve Blesi confirmed to PEOPLE at the time.

The grieving father told PEOPLE that his son had "an adventurous spirit" and "could have done anything he wanted in this world."

South Korea's chief of police, Yoon Hee-geun, acknowledged on Nov. 1 that the crowd control was "inadequate," while speaking of the Halloween tragedy.