At least 45 dead after nightclub fire in Bucharest

December 2015

Live events sector


At least forty people – mostly teenagers and young people – have been killed after fire broke out at a nightclub in Bucharest, officials say. The blaze took hold at the Colectiv club on Friday night (30th October), where rock band Goodbye to Gravity were celebrating a new album with a free concert, causing a stampede for the two small exits – one of which was reportedly closed or blocked. Emergency response chief Raed Arafat said 155 people were being treated in hospitals in the Romanian capital. The fire is believed to have been caused by fireworks that were let off inside the club. The pyrotechnics were reportedly part of a show by the heavy metal band, and ignited polystyrene decor in the club. Arafat told the BBC that “the only information we have is that fireworks were used in the club and after that the tragedy happened. Of course, this is under investigation”.  Local media reports suggesting two of the band are among those seriously injured or dead. Officials say  that they fear the death toll could as yet double in number.  Arafat, said people were treated for burns, smoke inhalation and lesions at hospitals around the capital.


The Great White tragedy in the USA in 2003 left 100 dead and 200 injured at the Station Nightclub after pyrotechnics set of by the band in the club ignited flammable sound proofing. The fatalities and injuries were caused by smoke inhalation and crushing. This was followed in 2004 in a similar incident at a nightclub in Argentina when 194 people died at the República Cromañónnight club  when rock group Callejeros were playing and a pyrotechnic flare was set off and ignited foam in the ceiling. In 2008 in Thailand again pyrotechnics set of by a band on stage at the Satntika nightclub caused a fire and left 66 people dead. In 2009 in Perm in Russia, 156 died after fireworks set the ceiling alight – and also the same year and just after Perm there was a near miss in Scotland – indoor fireworks set fire to the plastic netting hung across the roof in the Luna nightclub in Edinburgh. And what do people learn? Nothing it seems. When I used to teach undergraduates, I would go through all of these tragedies – and point out that if a band or venue let off fireworks and/or the fire exits are locked, blocked or chained shut – its time to leave.


And 242 people died in a fire in the Kiss nightclub in the South of Brazil. The blaze, at the over crowded nightclub in the city of Santa Maria, apparently began when a band lit a flare or fireworks which ignited sound proofing foam on the ceiling. 630 people were injured. Sounds familiar?


The owner of the Station Nightclub in the USA and Great White’s tour manager both received prison sentences for manslaughter. Michael Derderian, the club owner, received four years and Dan Biechele, the tour manager, four years with a further eleven years suspended. Derderian’s brother and club co-owner Jeffrey received 500 community service, and the brothers were fined $1.06 million for failing to have proper insurance. A massive civil claim followed and defendants included the club, the band, the local fire department, those who sold the fireproofing, Clear Channel who helped promote the show, a local TV stationwho were filming at the club when disaster struck, the Local Town Authority and the State. In Russia, a court in the central Russian city of Perm has sentenced a prominent nightclub owner to nine years and 10 months in jail over a deadly fire in December 2009.  Anatoly Zak and four former associates in his Khromaya Loshad (Lame Horse) nightclub were found guilty of manslaughter. The four were sentenced to prison terms of between four and six years. Two former officials from the local fire-safety directorate were found guilty of negligence and sentenced to four and five years in jail. In Thailand, the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court found two people, club owner Wisuk Setsawat,  and Boonchu Laorinath, the light and sound company’s owner, guilty of negligence in 2011. Wisuth and Boonchoo were given three-year jail terms. Boonchoo was also ordered to pay Bt8.5 million in compensation to five plaintiffs, relatives of the victims. After the Luna near miss, Sheriff Graeme Warner slammed the “unbelievable attitude” of the DJ, Jason Cormack, who let of the pyrotechnics saying it was fortunate nobody had died and that setting off fireworks indoors was like handing a child a gun and being surprised when someone was injured.


One eyewitness told local TV station Antena 3: “People were fainting, they were fainting from the smoke. It was total chaos, people were trampling on each other”. Meanwhile a local journalist, Sorin Bogdan, told the BBC that the club, based in a converted factory, had just two small exit doors, only one of which was open at the time. It is thought up to 400 people were at the concert.


Romania’s president  Klaus Iohannis has said safety regulations seem to have been ignored in a Bucharest nightclub saying “I am saddened, but also revolted that a tragedy of this scale could have taken place in Bucharest” adding “We already have indications that the legal regulations had not been respected”. Reports say that it is believed the club did have all necessary permits in place.


And three days after the fire it was announced that Romania’s Prime Minister is to stand down after widespread protests: “I’m handing in my mandate, I’m resigning, and implicitly my government too,” Victor Ponta said in a statement, adding he would stay on until a new coalition had been formed. “I am obliged to take note of the legitimate grievances which exist in society,” he went on. “I hope handing in my and my government’s mandate will satisfy the demands of protesters.” After the initial death poll of 30 was announced, 15 more victims died – many from burns and organ failure from inhaling toxic fumes. Just under 100 people are still in hospital, with about 40 of them in a serious or critical condition. Prosecutors said the mayor of the district where the nightclub is located, Cristian Popescu Piedone, had been taken into custody, along with the club’s owners.




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