Four students dead, over 70 injured in stampede during university Tech Fest in Kochi’s CUSAT

The stampede occurred during a music concert by Nikhita Gandhi; condition of four injured stated to be serious.

ByK A Shaji

Published Nov 25, 2023 | 9:55 PM Updated Nov 26, 2023 | 6:55 AM


Four engineering students, including two women, were killed and at least 64 others injured in a stampede during a music concert organised as part of a Tech Fest at the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) at Kalamassery near Kochi on Saturday, 25 November.

Three stampede victims have been identified: Athul Thampi of Koothattukulam, Ann Rufta of North Paravoor, and Sarah Thomas of Thamarassery. All of them were second-year students at the College of Engineering at the university.

Kerala stampede

Victims of the CUSAT stampede.

Albin Joseph of Mundoor in Palakkad district, who was not a CUSAT student, was identified as the fourth person killed in the rush.

Police confirmed all four were brought dead to the medical college hospital in Kalamassery.

Two critically injured students are now being treated at the intensive care unit of the Aster Hospital in Kochi, while two others are in the intensive care unit of the Kalamassery Medical College. The four remain critical.

A total of 72 people were undergoing treatment at different hospitals.

The incident

Poor crowd control allegedly led to the stampede at CUSAT on Saturday night.

The open-air auditorium on campus, located near the canteen and the Student Amenities Centre, was scheduled to hold a music concert by popular singer Nikhita Gandhi when the stampede occurred.

The event, which took place on the final day of the three-day annual Tech Fest, Dhishna, was ticketed. Those who had a gate pass received a “Dhishna” black T-shirt.

According to sources, the gates opened at 5.30 pm, and invitees were told they would close at 7.30 pm.

However, about 7 p.m., severe rain lashed the campus, prompting many gathered outdoors to run into the nearby roofed auditorium. People went over the auditorium stairs during the uproar, causing the stampede, ADGP MR Ajithkumar told the media.

Kerala stampede

Ministers P Rajeev and R Bindu at a local hospital where the injured were admitted.

According to the senior police officer, the auditorium — which has a single access and exit point and a capacity of 2,000 — was only “partly filled” during the rush.

Reports said the crowd included those who did not have the passes. They had gathered outdoors to watch the event.

According to CUSAT Vice-Chancellor PG Sankaran, the institution had informed the police about the programme.

However, as Kochi was hosting a home game of the Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League, most of the city’s police presence was concentrated in and around the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kaloor.

“The exit and entry through the same gate had caused the stampede,” stated municipal Kalamassery councillor P. Pramod.

“As the students were trying to enter through the same gate, those who fell were stomped over by those who rushed in,” he explained.

According to CUSAT VC Sankaran, around 2,500 students from the institution attended the programme on Saturday. Residents and students from adjacent institutions were also present on the campus at the time of the disaster.

According to estimates, there were approximately 800 individuals inside the auditorium during the rush.

The event

The Tech Fest, called Dhishna, was organised by CUSAT’s School of Engineering. It was intended to be the comeback of the yearly Tech Fest, which had been cancelled owing to the Covid-19 epidemic for the last three years.

The three-day event began on Friday and was dubbed a “remarkable revival” on its website.

The incident occurred just before a music concert by popular playback singer Nikhita Gandhi in the open-air campus arena.

The first day of the tech carnival included numerous cutting-edge technologies, emphasising their usefulness and potential abuse. Other significant events included Robo Wars, Robo Survival, Robo Soccer, Autonomy Race, and Drag Race. The students had created 10 robots for Robo Games.

Another significant event was the launch of the student-designed and- engineered rocket. They were hoping to achieve a height of 10,000 feet with their rocket.

Aside from Nikhita Gandhi’s performance, the organisers had scheduled a dance battle, dirt bike race, RC vehicle exhibition, and soapy football.

Also read: Toll in Kerala blasts rises to six; 3rd person of a family dies

Hospitals on alert

Ministers P Rajeev and R Bindu, who were away in Kozhikode as part of the ongoing Nava Kerala Sadas Yatra of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, took a break and rushed to Kochi.

Speaking to South First over the phone, Health Minister Veena George said orders have been issued to enhance facilities at the medical college for the injured, including the quick deployment of experts and the provision of sufficient medicines and other facilities.

Private hospitals in the locality have also been directed to remain on high alert.

Given the tragedy, Chief Minister Vijayan ordered the cancellation of all the entertainment programmes on Sunday as part of his ongoing Navakerala Yathra.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi expressed his condolences over the incident and wanted better treatment for all those injured.

Dhishna was held after a three-year break. According to its website, Gandhi was performing live for the first time in Kerala.

Nikhita Gandhi ‘heartbroken’

Meanwhile, singer Nikhita Gandhi said that she was “heartbroken” and “devastated” by the deaths of four students in the stampede just ahead of her music concert in Kochi.

It was her first performance in Kerala.

In an Instagram post, Gandhi expressed condolences on the incident.

“Heartbroken and devastated by what took place this evening in Kochi. Such an unfortunate incident occurred before I could even leave for the venue for the performance. No words are possibly enough to express this profound grief. My prayers go out to the students’ families,” her post on Instagram read.

Among the dead, Ann Rufta is an expert in the traditional Latin Catholic art form of Chavittu Nadakam, a traditional dance-drama performance. Trained under her father, Roy George Kutty, she had played lead roles in several Chavittu Natakam performances, winning appreciation.