Seriously injured when a stand collapsed in the Furiani stadium, in Corsica, on May 5, 1992 before a Coupe de France match between Bastia and Marseille, Paul Calassi, 73, and Karine Grimaldi, 49, ” have been dragging their illness” on a daily basis for thirty years.
AFP met them in 2012 and called them to testify again on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of this disaster.
Karine Grimaldi: “The suffering remains the same”
She was just an 18-year-old when the grandstand collapsed on her and so many other spectators, leaving 19 dead and 2,357 injured. “I have done more life in a wheelchair than a valid one. Thirty years is a lifetime”, asserts the one who has been quadriplegic since 1992.
“The suffering is always the same. We are not only injured the day we fall. We drag our pain on a daily basis with this chair”, she assures. When AFP met her in 2012, she was diving and painting, “because you have to have the strength to move forward”. Today, Karine is married, has “sports or associative activities”, plays ping-pong, but recounts days “long because we don’t work”.
She still remembers her fall: “On the ground, the screams, this hubbub, all this metal. These noises still startle me today. The unconscious puts them aside, but it comes back anyway.” She will not participate in the commemoration at the stadium: “inconceivable” to return there. “I’ve always agreed that the stadium should stay in its place so that we don’t forget, but I can’t go there”.
The anniversary is all the more difficult for Karine since she lost her father this year, a “living-dead” after this disaster in her words, which had taken away a daughter, Karine’s sister, and left the other disabled for life. The “national recognition” of May 5 is important for Karine, but she regrets that a Europa League match is still being played on Thursday in Marseille (Marseille-Feyenoord Rotterdam).
“It shocks me. It’s still OM who will play. There will be joy and we will cry. There was no listening even if there will be banners to support us”.
Only one of the thirteen defendants initially prosecuted received a prison sentence, the builder of the temporary stand, sentenced to two years in prison at first instance and who had not appealed.
At the end of the appeal trial, in 1995, eight other defendants, including officials of the club, the Corsican League or the FFF, as well as the former chief of staff of the prefect, were sentenced to suspended sentences or fines.
Paul Calassi: “An even worse life”
He was 44 when his life changed. On May 5, 1992, Paul Calassi was at the very top of the stand which collapsed, 17 meters above the ground. “I left in a vacuum,” he recalls, referring to an accident that left him paraplegic. He still lives in the village of Poggio d’Oletta (Haute-Corse), about twenty kilometers from the Furiani stadium.
Twenty years after the disaster, he had told AFP, the three weeks of resuscitation, then the eight months in rehabilitation on the continent before returning to Corsica, to live an upset life. The one who was to become the owner of a restaurant in Nice could no longer work and had to go regularly to the Bastia hospital for treatment.
“Thirty years after the accident, my state of health has deteriorated again,” he told AFP by telephone. “For five or six years, I have had my right leg amputated”. Paul no longer has any autonomy: “I have been bedridden for some time, I have lost 30 kilos. I no longer even have the strength to get up on my own.”
“An even worse life than the one I lived”, he notes, admitting that “the drama is always present”. Paul Calassi kept a “hate towards those responsible”. “There was a construction without authorization, the demolition of the old stand, without authorization, he accuses. It makes Gamberger”.
Regarding the sanctification of May 5, obtained in October – no professional match in the context of a French competition can any longer be held on this date – Mr Calassi does not understand why it took so long to vote for this law: “It’s atrocious, indecent, vis-à-vis the wounded and the dead. It was however simple to delete this date”.