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Two American college students killed in Seoul Halloween crowd surge

Death toll from South Korea Halloween surge rises
Death toll from South Korea Halloween stampede rises 02:14

Two American college students were among the more than 150 people killed when a huge Halloween party crowd surged into a narrow alley in a nightlife district in Seoul, South Korea, their universities said. 

University of Kentucky student Anne Gieske and Kennesaw State University student Steven Blesi were both killed, their schools said in statements Sunday.

Gieske was a nursing student in her junior year, University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto said in a letter to the community. Gieske was from Northern Kentucky and had been studying abroad in South Korea for the semester, Capilouto said.  

Two other UK students and a faculty member who are in South Korea are safe, Capilouto also said.

Stampede during Halloween festival in Seoul
A man bows after paying tribute near the scene of the stampede during Halloween festivities, in Seoul, South Korea, October 30, 2022. KIM HONG-JI / REUTERS

CBS Lexington affiliate WKYT-TV reported that Gieske was a member of UK's Korean Language and Culture Club. The organization told WKYT in a statement that Gieske "was a very kind and outgoing person. We all feel sorry to hear about her loss and we hope that she would rest in peace."

Blesi was an international business major at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, and was one of 11 students studying in South Korea as part of a study abroad program, the school said. All the other students have been reported safe. 

Blesi's father told The New York Times that his son had recently finished midterms, and had gone out to celebrate on Saturday night.

"I texted him maybe a half-hour before all this happened, and I said, 'I know you're out and about. Be safe,'" Blesi's father, Steve, told the Times. "I never got a reply to that."  

The crowd surge is one of South Korea's worst disaster in years. As of Sunday evening, officials put the death toll at 153 and the number of injured people at 133. The Ministry of the Interior and Safety said the death count could further rise as 37 of the injured people were in serious conditions.  

Ninety-seven of the dead were women and 56 were men. More than 80% of the dead are in their 20s and 30s, but at least four were teenagers.

At least 20 of the dead are foreigners from China, Russia, Iran and elsewhere. 

President Biden tweeted that he and first lady Jill Biden are "devastated to learn that at least two Americans are among so many who lost their lives in Seoul. Our hearts go out to their loved ones in this time of grief, and we continue to pray for the recovery of all who were injured."    

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