Relatives of Carlos Alexandre Machado, one of the victims
of a fire at Boate Kiss nightclub, mourn during his funera.
Brazilian police have detained the owners of the
nightclub where a fire killed 231 people as well as two band
members whose pyrotechnics they say triggered the blaze as the
focus turned to finding those responsible for the tragedy.
No charges were filed against the four men, but prosecutors
said they could be held for up to five days as police pressed
them for clues as to how the fire early Sunday morning could
have caused so many deaths.
Stunned residents in the southern city of Santa Maria began
attending a marathon of funerals in the pre-dawn hours of
Monday. Many of the dead were university students who knew
Coffins, many draped with flags of the victims' favorite
soccer teams, lined a gymnasium that has been used as a
Most of the dead were suffocated by toxic fumes that rapidly
filled the Kiss nightclub after the band set off a flare at
about 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, authorities said.
The club's operating license was in the process of being
renewed after expiring last year, and witnesses said bouncers
initially blocked the only functioning exit because they
believed fleeing customers were trying to skip out on their
Tarso Genro, governor of the prosperous southern state of Rio
Grande do Sul where the disaster occurred, said police had
taken the men into custody to ensure "this will never happen
Genro said authorities' focus had shifted from rescue and
taking care of the wounded to investigating the scene. "We're
going to find out who was responsible," he vowed.
The death toll was revised down to 231 from 233 as officials
said some names had been counted twice. Eighty-two people
remained hospitalized, at least 30 of them in serious
The tragedy came as Brazil prepares to host the 2014 World
Cup soccer tournament and 2016 Olympics, putting its safety
standards and emergency response capabilities in the
international spotlight. President Dilma Rousseff visited the
scene, visibly upset, on Sunday.
Relatives and friends of the dead demanded accountability,
signaling the start of a wave of police probes, lawsuits and
recriminations that could drag on for months or even years.
"We can't trust in the ability of city hall, or the police,
or anybody who permits a party with more a thousand people
under these conditions," said Erica Weber, who was
accompanying her daughter to a funeral for one of her
Based on testimony from more than 20 witnesses, investigators
are now certain that the band's pyrotechnics show triggered
the blaze, said police official Sandro Meinerz. He added that
initial reports that the club was operating beyond its
capacity of 1,000 people were likely false.
"Witnesses said the club wasn't as full as it had been in
previous weeks, which surely avoided an even greater
tragedy," Meinerz said.
The band's guitarist, Rodrigo Lemos Martins, 32, said he
doubted the band was responsible for the blaze. "There were
lots of wires (in the ceiling), maybe it was a short
circuit," Folha de S.Paulo newspaper quoted him as saying.
The band's accordion player, Danilo Jaques, 30, was among
those killed but the other five members survived. Vocalist
Marcelo de Jesus dos Santos and production engineer Luciano
Bonilha, who police believed were responsible for firing the
flare, were taken into custody, according to Brazilian media.
It seems certain others will share the blame for Brazil's
second-deadliest fire ever. The use of a flare inside the
club was a clear breach of security regulations, fire
Some details may never be known. Meinerz said the club's
internal video surveillance system had stopped working three
months ago, according to the club owner.
Clubs and restaurants in Brazil are generally subject to a
web of overlapping safety regulations, but enforcement is
uneven and owners sometimes pay bribes to continue operating.
The investigation of the Kiss fire could drag on for years.
After a similar fire at an Argentine nightclub in 2004 killed
194 people, more than six years passed before a court found
members of a band criminally responsible for starting the
blaze and causing the deaths.
That tragedy also provoked a massive backlash against
politicians and led to the removal of the mayor of Buenos
Civil lawsuits stemming from the Brazil fire are likely to be
directed at the government because the owners of the
nightclub probably don't have much money, said Carlos
Castello de Campos, a Brazilian lawyer who has handled big
cases including the crash of a TAM Airlines jet in Sao Paulo
Castello de Campos disputed some local officials' claims that
the Kiss nightclub could have continued operating legally
while it was waiting for its license to be renewed. "If the
license was expired, that's an irregular situation," he said.
Valdeci Oliveira, a legislator in Rio Grande do Sul state,
said he and his colleagues would seek to ban pyrotechnics
displays in closed spaces such as nightclubs.
"It won't bring anybody back but we're going to introduce the
bill," Oliveira said on his Twitter feed.
The Brazil fire is the worst to hit an entertainment venue
since a fire on Christmas Day in 2000 engulfed a mall in
Luoyang, China, killing 309 people.