By Leo Byrne, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Rio Grande do Sul’s police yesterday announced the results of their 55 day investigation into the tragic nightclub fire in Santa Maria that killed 241 people and left a further 632 injured in the early hours of January 27th.
The investigation called for the conviction of sixteen people who will face a total of 35 charges between them.
According to the report, the nightclub’s owners and manager Ricardo Castro will face indictment on the grounds of negligent homicide along with two of the club’s partners Elissandro Spohr and Mauro Hoffman. Two band members who are believed to have ignited the blaze by holding a firework too close to the ceiling will face the same charge.
The investigation found that the incident was a “grotesque safety failure” with at least 864 people inside the small venue that was licensed to hold a maximum of 600.
The nightclub’s operation in lieu of any emergency exits, poor lighting and inadequate escape routes mean that two of Santa Maria’s fire safety officials, Gilson Martins and Vagner Guimaraes Dias Coelho will also be indicted for negligent homicide.
Santa Maria’s mayor Cezar Schirmer and the commander of the local fire fighters Moshe Fuchs will face charges of manslaughter and administrative misconduct. The investigation also found that “evidence of manslaughter exists for the actions of nine fire fighters.”
Local police also requested an indictment for manslaughter for the town’s environmental and urban mobility secretaries, the head of supervision at the department of urban mobility and the department of finance official who issued the permit for the nightclub’s location.
The investigation lasted nearly two months spanned 810 interviews and 1300 pages of evidence and testimony. “We want to give maximum publicity to the contents of this work. By the number of victims, the circumstances and complexity, I can say that this is the largest investigation ever undertaken by the police of Rio Grande Do Sul,” Rio Grande do Sul’s police chief, Ranolfo Vieira Junior told O Globo.
One of the largest nightclub fires in recent memory, the tragic fire caused a wave of closures across Brazil as local authorities reviewed the provision emergency exits and escape routes in bars and clubs around the country.
Read more (in Portuguese).
* The Rio Times Daily Updates feature is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.