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A vigil at Osan Air Base Nov. 4, 2022, remembered victims of the fatal crowd surge in nearby Seoul, South Korea, on Oct. 29, 2022.

A vigil at Osan Air Base Nov. 4, 2022, remembered victims of the fatal crowd surge in nearby Seoul, South Korea, on Oct. 29, 2022. (David Choi/Stars and Stripes)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — Three U.S. soldiers are heralded as heroes in South Korea for rescuing people from the deadly crowd surge that killed more than 150 people Oct. 29 in Seoul.

Jarmil Taylor, Dane Beathard and Jerome Augusta were in Itaewon, the popular entertainment district in Seoul, for Halloween festivities that night, Agence France-Presse reported on Oct. 30. All three are stationed at the Army’s Camp Casey, a spokesman for 2nd Infantry Division told Stars and Stripes by phone.

The three reportedly grew concerned with the size of the crowd, which Korean National Police estimated at around 100,000 people. The soldiers began pulling people out of the crowd, they told AFP.

“There were people on top of people — it was layers of people,” Taylor told AFP. “They didn’t have enough people there to help them at once.”

Lt. Col. Ryan Donald, spokesman for the 2nd ID, confirmed that the three soldiers are with the division at Camp Casey, but he otherwise declined comment on the AFP report. Stars and Stripes was unable to reach the three for comment.

At least 156 people died as a result of the crowd surge. Most of the victims were in their 20s, according to South Korea’s Central Disaster Security Countermeasure Headquarters. Twenty-six of the victims were foreigners, including two Americans.

An unidentified South Korean man from Cheongju told Yonhap News that he believed one of the three soldiers rescued him after he was crushed for 15 minutes. One of the soldiers “rescued him from the crowd as if pulling radishes from a field,” the unidentified man said, according to a Yonhap report Thursday.

“The circumstances of the Itaewon disaster and rescue activities that the three U.S. soldiers revealed in their interviews are exactly identical to what I experienced,” the man reportedly said.

Other U.S. soldiers were at the scene of the tragedy. Military police stationed in nearby Yongsan Garrison were conducting a routine, courtesy patrol and assisted with crowd control and provided first aid, U.S. Forces Korean spokesman Wesley Hayes told Stars and Stripes.

All USFK service members, Defense Department civilian and local employees were accounted for after a check that began Sunday morning, Hayes told Stars and Stripes by email Monday. He would not comment, citing privacy concerns, on whether any USFK personnel were injured.

USFK offered its condolences Oct. 30 to “everyone impacted by last night’s tragic event in Seoul, especially with the families who have lost loved ones and those who were injured,” according to a USFK post on Twitter.

“The Itaewon community has opened its arms to us for many years and is part of the reason our alliance is so strong,” the statement said. “During this time of grief, we will be there for you just as you have been there for us.”

Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek held a vigil attended by a small group of service members Friday afternoon for the victims of the Itaewon tragedy.

“Katchi kapshida means ‘we go together,’ and in times like this we will stand by our host nation in support, reflection and healing,” according to a post Wednesday on Osan’s official Facebook page.

The South Korean government will examine future festivals and conduct crowd management inspections, according to a press release Monday from Vice Minister for Disaster and Safety Management Kim Sung-ho.

“Once again, I pray for the souls of those who have passed away in this incident, express my consolation to their bereaved families and wish those injured a rapid recovery,” Kim said.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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