Indonesia stadium tragedy: tributes paid to fan who helped others escape | Indonesia

The Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, has visited victims of the Kanjuruhan stadium disaster, vowing to find the “root” of the tragedy as demands for justice grew.

The president said he would order an audit of all football stadiums in the country, saying: “I want to know the root of the problem that caused this tragedy so that we can get the best solution.”

As Widodo visited relatives of the victims and talked to survivors of the tragedy at a hospital, grieving families continued to call for answers.

Late into Tuesday evening, mourners filed into a funeral home in Watugede village, Malang, to pay their respects to Iwan Junaedi, one of the 131 people killed on Saturday. Iwan, 44, was a prominent figure among Arema FC’s passionate fans, known as Aremania, and was well-loved within the community. He died, say friends, trying to open a gate to save other fans.

“Until today, I still never thought that Mas Iwan would end up like this. He lost his life supporting his beloved football team. But I’m sure up there he is smiling. Surely because he has fulfilled his promise: to support Arema until his last breath,” said his wife, Eka Wulandari.

As panic spread amid the firing of teargas by police, Iwan prioritised helping others, friends told his wife.

Iwan Junaedi’s children visit their father’s grave.
Iwan Junaedi’s children visit their father’s grave on Monday. Photograph: Reuters

First, he gathered all the members of Curvanord – the organisation of Arema supporters he founded – and ensured they were able to get out of Kanjuruhan safely. They waited, crammed tightly, eyes stinging and weeping, for an hour, before they could finally get outside the stadium.

Iwan rested for half an hour with others in the car park. Then he went back towards gate four alone, determined to help others get out.With his remaining energy, he tried to open the locked gate from the outside.

Half an hour passed, but Iwan had not come back. His group, the Curvanords, went to look for him. The gate was open and he was lying unconscious on the floor next to it.

Iwan was taken to hospital, but medics were unable to save him.

The Football Association of Indonesia said on Tuesday that delays in opening the gates – which should be unlocked 10 minutes before the end of a match – contributed to the disaster.

They stayed shut “because of late commands” and officers had not arrived, a spokesperson for the association said.

Widodo said on Wednesday that steep stairs inside the stadium also contributed to the tragedy.

It is unclear how Iwan died, though his family suspect he was hit by a teargas canister. His brother, Heri, 55, saw a yellow bruise while bathing his body. “I saw a scar, like a gunshot wound on the [Iwan’s] right upper back. My brother, who works [in the] military, said the wound was [from] a teargas casing,” he said.

Iwan Junaedi’s grave.
Iwan Junaedi’s grave. Photograph: Rizki Dwi Putra/Reuters

Witnesses have previously told the Guardian that no warning was given prior to teargas being used, and that it was fired not only at supporters who had invaded the pitch but also at fans in the stands.

“Deep in my heart I let him go,” said Eka as she wiped away the tears running through her cheeks. “He has lived his life to the fullest. He has also kept his promise to support Arema until the end of his life,” Eka said.

But the family, she added, wanted justice and accountability. “As a victim, I demanded that those responsible for my husband’s death, the father of my children, provide fair compensation,” she said. The disaster must be investigated thoroughly and fully, Eka added: “I have to know who shot my husband with teargas.”

Indonesia’s chief security minister has created a taskforce, made up of academics, officials and journalists, to investigate the disaster. They will complete their work within two to three weeks.

It was midnight when Eka received a phone call saying her husband had died. She thought it was a joke. She had known there was trouble at the stadium that evening, but only half an hour earlier her husband’s friend had called and reassured her that he was safe.

“I only believed the news when I arrived at the Wava Husada hospital, and saw my husband’s body lying on the hospital floor without a bed. My tears broke. My mind and heart got even more clouded when I saw other bodies with pitiful conditions. Some of them had their faces bent inward and were no longer recognisable,” Eka said.

The stadium descended into chaos when officers fired teargas in response to a pitch invasion by fans, creating a deadly crush as fans tried to leave.

A father of three children, Iwan was a homemaker, though he also traded birds and would work as a ticket trader on match days.Iwan was an Aremania through and through, said friends. Amin Fals, 55, an old friend of Iwan, remembers how, as a child, Iwan often wore a white T-shirt with “Arema” handwritten on it every time the team played. He had been a proud supporter ever since he was an elementary school student.

“Even when Arema was not yet in the professional league, Iwan had desperately supported Arema. He even hitched on a truck, following Arema wherever they went. I became an Aremania thanks to Iwan’s influence,” recalls Amin, adding that Iwan was also a loyal and protective friend.

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