Death is the last thing on anyone’s mind during a fun night of music and dancing, but tragedies occur in nightclub and festival situations more often than we care to think about.
This past Saturday at Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, Brazil, a deadly fire ignited on stage around 2am and quickly moved to the ceiling, which soon led to roof collapses in several areas, and subsequent human entrapment. Although the cause is still under investigation, it was potentially due to a pyrotechnics show on stage that set the club’s acoustic insulation aflame.
At the time, Kiss was packed with about 2,000 revelers, which state fire officials pointed out is a whopping double the legal maximum capacity. An estimated 233 people were killed, mostly from smoke inhalation, and over 130 more were hopsitalized for various injuries due, of course, to crowd trampling. Among the dead is the band’s accordionist, who was on stage performing when the fire started.
Unfortunately, this is yet another example of how a heartbreaking twist of fate combined with grossly negligent management has lead to the needless loss of life. Aside from the root cause of the blaze, the club’s unsafe environment exacerbated the situation, and fire officials even discovered that Kiss’s license had expired back in August and was never renewed.
Overcrowding made escape more difficult (and for some, impossible), and on top of that, investigators received intel that security guards were actually preventing people from leaving. Why they would do such a thing is unfathomable, and we can only imagine that it was because of lack of communication between security and club managers during the frenzy; perhaps they didn’t realize initially what was happening inside.
Not only was Kiss already too packed to allow for safe exiting, the darkness and lack of exit signs made it that much harder for people to even know how to get out. Apparently many Brazilian clubs are lackadaisical in regards to safety precautions like having lit signs above exit doors. The bathroom in particular was where 90% of the victims were found, again from their inability to exit. State lawmaker Valderci Oliveira witnessed what was left of the scene, saying the piles of bodies in the bathroom looked “like a war zone.” Cell phones were strewn among the destruction, many of them ringing in the aftermath as family and friends tried to contact their loved ones.
Pyrotechnics and fireworks have become controversial as calamitous incidents such as this one occur; however, it’s obvious that dangerous accidents become deadlier because many venue managers ignore safety regulations, allow overcrowding in order to maximize profits, have expired licenses and are ill-equipped with sprinklers or clearly marked exits. CNN provides a description of similar events at clubs around the world over the past decade, and you may recall the deadly trampling of three individuals in Madrid this November at a Steve Aoki show after a flare was allegedly set off in the crowd.
We can only hope that the incredible loss in Brazil this weekend will inspire club management worldwide to improve safety measures and recognize the irreparable moral harm, as well as legal ramifications of remaining negligent.