Sunday, November 1, 2015

Nightclub Fire in Romania Kills 27, Injures 170

2015-10-31 - Bucharest, Romania - An late night fire in a basement nightclub claimed 39 lives, injured over 190, and was completely predictable and preventable.  A heavy metal band Goodbye to Gravity gave a free Halloween concert at the Colectiv nightclub just south east of the city center, and during the show some fireworks (pyrotechnics) were set-off which ignited a foam covered column that was adjacent to the stage.  Witnesses said the fire rapidly spread across the foam and pine wood covered ceiling causing a panic in the crowd.

Ironically, the band had just played 'This is the Day We Die' from their new CD "Mantras of War", and then as they started into the next song the fire started.  Delia Tugui, a Spanish teacher at the American International School of Bucharest who was at the concert with her husband and son, said club goers were surprised by how fast the fire spread and panicked.
Moments before the fire
"The lead singer made a quick joke: 'This wasn't part of the program.'  The next second, he realized it wasn't a joke and asked for a fire extinguisher," she wrote on her Facebook page.  "In 30 seconds . . . the fire spread all over the ceiling.  People rushed to the entrance but it was too narrow, and people panicked.  Behind me people stampeded, climbing over each other, to try and get out."
The fireworks spray towards the foam covered column
"I was two meters from the door and I barely got out," she told The Associated Press.  "People started pushing each other, stamping on each other, it was incredibly quick."
Patrons still smiling unaware of the hell that was about to break loose
"Friends were looking for each other under the pile of people," she said. "It was a nightmare."

She said she knew some would not escape.

"I realized that those on the other side of the bar would not get out alive."

Once she got outside there was a blast and her hair caught fire, Tugui said.

"I tried to put it out with my hands and got burned.  People behind me were burned from head to toe."

A  3D computer generated graphic of the nightclub fire can be seen here.

The band’s lead singer, Alex Pascu, was hospitalized and later died.  Antena 3 TV said bass guitarist Alex Telea was reported missing by his parents, who have been searching for him.  he is also confirmed dead.

Florentina Dinca, 38, who lives opposite the nightclub, told The Associated Press there was chaos as emergency workers tried to aid the badly burned clubgoers.

"They were very frightened, they screamed, ambulances didn't know what to do," she said.  "Girls had their hair burned, they had burns on their faces.  It was terror."

“There was a stampede of people running out of the club,” a man who escaped without shoes told Reuters.

A young woman who sustained minor injuries described the club bursting into flames.  “In five seconds the whole ceiling was all on fire. In the next three we rushed to a single door,” she told television station Antena 3.

The nightclub had only one entrance / exit and it was just 80cm wide (31 1/2").  Paul Angelescu, a reporter with ProTV, said the mayor told him the venue had all the necessary permits to operate as a club, however, they did not have permits for any pyrotechnic use.  Further investigation will determine if the facility was indeed compliant with current local building codes.

The club was said to have 300-400 in attendance that night, and some were minors. It was only permitted for 80 occupants.  In Romania it is permissible for adults to bring their children into nightclubs, and occasionally unaccompanied minors enter the clubs because the monitoring of age is very lax.

The nightclub is one of dozens of clubs and bars that have sprung up in the Romanian capital in recent years, a lively city of 3 million renowned for its nightlife and long hours.

Shooting candles and indoor fireworks are common in bars and restaurants in Romania and enforcement of fire regulations is poor.

Twelve hospitals were filled with burn and smoke inhalation victims, and hundreds lined-up outside to donate blood.  The death toll is expected to rise.

Update:  Thousands of protesters in Romania have been gathered in Bucharest expressing anger towards the government for the lax building code enforcement that led to this tragedy.  Prime Minister Victor Ponta and his Cabinet resigned Wednesday, November 4 in response to public demands for accountability.

If this story seems all-to-familiar, numerous nightclub fires have been initiated by the illegal use of pyrotechnics which ignite foam materials used for sound absorption.  These include The Station nightclub fire in 2003 at West Warwick, Rhode Island, which killed 100 people; and and the Kiss nightclub fire in Santa Maria, Brazil, which killed 242 people.

More coverage can be found at:

This blog entry updated 2015-11-07-10:15PM