A partygoer has told of being crushed and trampled while trying to flee a rowdy student party in Dunedin where one woman died and two others were seriously injured.
One woman was killed and two others have serious injuries after a panicked stampede from the party at a student flat. The hosts had called police for help to shut down the party.
Police emergency tape cordons off the property this morning, with shoes and a lot of alcohol bottles, cans and boxes strewn on the street outside.
One partygoer told the Herald she was nearly crushed in the stampede to exit the property.
"No one could move inside it was that full. I went to leave and got to the bottom of the stairwell. Then all of a sudden everyone behind me were trying to run to leave through the front door which was a couple metres from the stairs.
"I got pushed to the ground with two other girls I remember, and we were looking at each other screaming and crying trying to get up. I kept repeating 'please don't let me die, I don't want to die'.
"I don't know how long I was down there, but it was the most terrifying experience of my life - I thought that was how I was going to die. Someone managed to grab my hand and help me up and I just ran out of the building screaming."
The woman said she was not injured but was very "shaken up".
Another partygoer told the Otago Daily Times there was panic during the incident as partygoers tried to get out of the house. It "felt like an hour" for him to get out, he said.
He saw three people being taken away by ambulance.
A third student told the Herald he left the party because he was worried it was getting overcrowded.
"There was one point where I was swept over and fell down with a couple of other people," he said.
"It was pretty standard [for flats to be full], it's happened before at flat parties but this was certainly worse than I've experienced in the past."
He said the situation reminded him of people being crushed in the Hillsborough disaster where 96 football fans died in the stands of an FA Cup match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in 1989.
"It was like a school of fish moving around … you didn't really have control over what was happening."
The student understood there was an incident involving the stairwell of the flat but he had left the party 30 minutes earlier.
Partygoers had been filtering through the flat but were predominantly gathering in the property's second storey, he said.
Dunedin's student population was this morning "shaken up" by the death, he said.
Hosts asked police for help to shut down party
Police and St John were called to the Dundas St property in the student quarter just before midnight after the occupants requested help to shut down a party.
It is understood the incident took place at a stairwell in a flat known as "The Manor".
When emergency services arrived, a large number of people were in the process of leaving and there were injuries, Otago Coastal Area Commander Marty Gray said.
"If you were at the party and have not spoken to police, we would ask you to please get in touch, to help us piece together what happened," he said.
Dunedin CIB was advised of the death and Victim Support was made available for those who were present.
Overnight, the intersection of Dundas St, Clyde St and Lovelock Ave was blocked off by firefighters and police crew.
Hundreds of people had attended the party, and spilled out on to Dundas St after the incident. A section of the street was later cordoned off by police officers.
University of Otago staff were "currently supporting the family and other affected students at this time", a spokeswoman told the Herald.
University of Otago Campus Watch staff joined firefighters, ambulance staff and police officers at the scene.
A spokeswoman for the Southern District Health Board was not able to provide any information when asked about patients at an incident on Dundas St.
In 2016, 16 people were moderately injured and two others seriously injured when a balcony collapsed at another Dunedin student flat.
Emergency services were called to that property - on Castle St, also in the student quarter - after the incident which occurred during a concert by the band Six60.
Up to 1500 students were at the party. Police discovered the balcony had been overloaded.
Witnesses described seeing bloodied, injured people - described by police as "walking wounded" - after the incident.
No one was charged in relation to the collapse.
- Additional reporting: Otago Daily Times