Authorities announced that at least seven university students died and four others were wounded when a railing broke during a student assembly at the Public University of El Alto, a neighbouring city of La Paz, on Tuesday. Footage from the incident shows a large number of students crowded into a small passageway in the university’s financial sciences campus, attempting to access an assembly hall. Three of the students died right away, while the other four died just minutes after being admitted to local hospitals. During a press conference, Police Commander General Jhonny Aguilera confirmed that the deceased are four men and three women between the ages of 21 and 23.
According to Aguilera, 11 students fell about 16.7 metres. The remaining four students were taken to local hospitals, three of whom were in critical condition. Hundreds of students were crowded into a small corridor for the assembly when the metal railing broke and many students dropped.
A female student narrowly avoided falling from the balcony and reached out to grab one of the two students who were dangling from the ledge. Another student who was pulled to safety had her legs stuck between the railing bars.
Three of the victims died immediately, while the other three died some hours later. Ral Cadena Choque, Genio Esteban Mamani, Sal Yerko Mamani Soria, Daniel Junio Rodrguez, Anah Chipana, Loida Soza Machaca, and Tania Roque Choque were among those killed. All of the victims were between the ages of 19 and 27.
Bolivia’s president, Luis Arce, expressed regret via social media “the tragedy at El Alto’s Public University (UPEA), in which many people died and were injured. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the Alteo people and their bereaved families. We eagerly await the truth to be clarified as soon as possible.”
Parents are calling for an investigation because the university isn’t holding any in-person classes due to COVID-19 safety precautions, but students were called to an assembly.