Who were Steven Blesi and Anne Gieske? US students among 153 killed in Seoul Halloween stampede

Who were Steven Blesi and Anne Gieske? US students among 153 killed in Seoul Halloween stampede
Steve Blesi (left) and Anne Gieske (right) were killed in a Halloween celebration stampede in Seoul, South Korea while on a student program from the US (Photo credit anne_in_seoul/Instagram and @steve_blesi/Twitter)

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA: The horrible stampede that took place in South Korea on October 29 at a Halloween celebration claimed the lives of two American students who were studying abroad. Anne Gieske and Steven Blesi, both 20, were killed in the event that attracted about 100,000 spectators.

Officials have confirmed that junior nursing student Anne Gieske who attended the University of Kentucky was killed in the stampede. Similarly, the family of Steven Blesi stated they were informed that he was one of the victims who died in the crowd surge. He was a junior at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. The incident occurred as the Halloween event's audience surged and grew disorderly, leading to a disastrous stampede. Two more students from the University of Kentucky were also studying abroad in South Korea. They are currently safe, according to university president Eli Capilouto, who made the announcement on October 30. “We have been in contact with Anne's family and will provide whatever support we can now and in the days ahead as they cope with this indescribable loss,” said Capilouto. “We will be there for those in our community who knew and loved Anne,” the University's president continued. 

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Gieske created an Instagram account in August with the sole purpose of chronicling her travels in South Korea. From 2015 through 2020, Gieske, a 2020 graduate of Beechwood High School and a native of Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, participated in the marching band at Beechwood. A brief statement from her parents Dan and Madonna stated: “We are completely devastated and heartbroken over the loss of Anne Marie. She was a bright light loved by all,” as reported by Daily Mail.

The United States Embassy in Seoul phoned Blesi's family on the night of October 29 and broke the awful news, according to Blesi's father, Steve Blesi, 62, of Marietta, Georgia. The family was pleading for information when Steven Blesi earlier tweeted a picture of his son, “Thank you for the outpouring of love. We need time to grieve.” Blesi spoke about the grief of losing his kid in an interview with The New York Times as he stated: “It was like it stabbed like a hundred million times simultaneously. It was like your world just collapsing. It was numb and devastating all at the same time.”

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At the time of his demise, he claimed, his son was enrolled at Hanyang University and was planning to pursue a career in business after graduating from eastern Asia. He made light of the situation by saying: “My wife is Latin, but he did not want to go to Latin America. He was actually learning Korean in addition to Spanish. He wanted to speak more languages than my wife. I texted him maybe a half-hour before all this happened, and I said, ‘I know you’re out and about. Be safe.’ I never got a reply to that.”

The celebration which was held in the heart of Seoul reached its climax when a large number of people tried to squeeze through a small space while stomping on others. Over 1,700 emergency personnel including about 520 firefighters, 1,100 police officers and 70 government employees, were dispatched from all over South Korea to deal with one of the deadliest crowd crushes in recent memory.

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