Weird Stuff

History’s Top 15 Worst Nightclub Fires

posted by Chris Valentine

Continued From Page 1

Entries 6 – 10

10. Club 5-7 Fire
Isère, France
Halloween Night / November 1, 1970
Death Toll: 146

Club 5-7 Fire - Aftermath

Club 5-7 Fire – Aftermath

The Club Cinq-Sept (Club 5-7), located near Saint-Laurent-du-Pont, consisted of a windowless block building with an iron roof, sporting a turnstile at the entrance. On Halloween night (a Saturday), a Parisian rock group called Storm performed on stage. Around 1:45am, somebody discarded a match carelessly, which ignited a seat cusion, which quickly spread to the surrounding decor (all of a highly flammable nature). 30 people got out before burning debris from the upper gallery came raining down. There was no phone to call for help; by the time firemen arrived, it was much too late.

Club 5-7 - Storm

Sign for Club-5-7, Van with Storm Stickers

Firefighters found bodies piled five deep around the exits which had been padlocked and barred with planks to keep out gatecrashers. It is believed some dancers were trampled to death in a stampede as people rushed to get out of the dance hall through the main entrance.

142 people (mostly between ages 17 and 30) died at the scene, 4 died later while being treated. All six members of the rock group Storm died, and 2 club managers also perished. A story in Time mentions that “fists were literally fried against the locked door, impressions of hands, arms and heads were fused into the cement…” An investigation revealed that the club had never been inspected by safety officials, no emergency equipment was put in place, and flammable materials decorated the place. The whole building was basically a tinderbox. It didn’t help that the club managers locked the exits. Club manager Gilbert Bas was found guilty of manslaughter and got a 2 year suspended sentence.

Club 5-7 Memorial

Club 5-7 Memorial

Source: BBC, Wikipedia

9. Lame Horse Fire
Perm, Russia
December 5, 2009
Death Toll: 156

Lame Horse Club Fire - Aftermath

About 300 people were at the nightclub Khromaya Loshad (“Lame Horse”) in Perm, Russia for the club’s 8th anniversary party, which include performance art and dancing. Fireworks were also used, some of which ignited the ceiling and spread over to the walls, igniting the decorations made of wood. When rear exit doors opened, a new source of oxygen enlarged the fire, causing large amounts of smoke, which caused a panic and stampede. 156 people died – 94 at the scene and the rest in hospitals afterwards.

Many people were indicted, including club co-owner Anatoly Zak, executive director Svetlana Yefremova, art director Oleg Fetkulov (whose wife died as a result of her injuries in the fire), Sergei Derbenyov (director of the pyrotechnics company Pirotsvet), and fire inspectors Vladimir Mukhutdinov, Dmitri Roslyakov, and Natalya Prokopyeva (for negligence of duty). Trials are still ongoing.

Sources: CharonBoat, Wikipedia

8. Ozone Disco Club Fire
Quezon City, Philippines
March 18, 1996
Death Toll: 162

The Ozone Disco was located in Quezon City, the most populous city in the Philippines. On March 18, 1996, about 350 guests and 40 employees filled the club (which was only approved to hold 35 people). Most of the club-goers were young high schoolers or college kids celebrating the end of the school year. After midnight, something happened in the DJ booth which caused flames to break out, soon spreading to the rest of the mezzanine and causing it to collapse. Due to the emergency exit door not functioning, there was a panic rush towards the only remaining exit, which caused a crush. Bodies were discovered later, piled up. Fueled by acoustic foam insulation, the fire spread quickly.

Ozone Disco

Ozone Disco, boarded up, photo taken in 2008

Six of the owners of the club were tried and sent to prison for 4 years. 12 city officials were also charged for allowing the club to pass fire inspection when it clearly was in violation. It took over 10 years before the mayor of Quezon City passed a law mandating the installation of doors in entertainment complexes that both swing in and swing out.

Source: Wikipedia

7. Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire
Southgate, Kentucky
May 28, 1977
Death Toll: 165

Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire

Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire, May 28, 1977

As of May, 1977, the Beverly Hills Supper Club was a huge attraction. Technically in Kentucky but only a few miles from Cincinnati, it drew performers from all over the country. The site of the club had a history, dating back to the 1930s. On May 28th, about 3,000 customers filled the club excited to watch John Davidson perform live. At 9pm, over 1,000 people alone were packed into the club’s Cabaret Room, with other guests in the various bars, restaurants, and party rooms in the huge complex.

Because of bad wiring, a fire started within the walls of the Zebra Room, which started heating up. Management was alerted to heavy smoke coming from the ceiling and called the fire department. But the fire soon took over the entire Zebra Room. busboy Walter Bailey got on stage in the Cabaret Room telling everyone to exit, but there were so many people there that getting out was a very slow process. Soon, the lights went out and the fire and smoke made it into the room, causing chaos. In the end, 165 people were dead, including two pregnant women and John Davidson’s music director.

Various issues contributed to the tragedy: tremendous overcrowding in the club, not enough exits (and those that existed were in hard to reach places), bad wiring (multiple code violations – the Governor’s report called it an “electrician’s nightmare”), no firewalls, and lack of sprinkler systems and alarms.

There are claims that the fire was started by arson. A panel determined in 2009 that any evidence existing of arson was not enough, and mostly conjecture, so it recommended that an investigation into the fire not be reopened. However, some other news has come to light – apparently color photos were taken of the scene the day after the tragedy which shows “unethical wiring” and other “devices” that may prove the fire was an intentional act. In addition, the book The Beverly Hills Supper Club The Untold Story Behind Kentucky’s Worst Tragedy contends that Richard J. Schilling Jr., who co-owned the club with his dad Richard Sr., received a threatening note at his home the day of the fire, which read: “We burned you before. We’ll burn you again. You keep building, we’ll keep burning!” The book also mentions that the mafia were involved.

Source: Wikipedia, Cincinnati Enquirer

6. República Cromañón Nightclub Fire
Buenos Aires, Argentina
December 30, 2004
Death Toll: 194

In Buenos Aires, it was a familiar incident with familiar causes: nightclub fire in a club that had a permit despite the fact that basic fire safety precautions did not exist, the fire started by pyrotechnics, the fire spreading to foam insulation in the ceiling as well as decorative materials/furniture that were all highly flammable. 194 people died this time.

República Cromañón

The band performing at the República Cromañón (“Cro-Magnon Republic”) that night was Callejeros, a popular Argentine rock group that had recently become successful off their sophomore album Presion, from 2003. The República Cromañón tragedy was to make them famous in another way. Fans of the band were fond of using pyrotechnics at their shows, but the band asked them not to. People didn’t listen, somebody used a flare, and soon the club was ablaze. Among the dead were the girlfriend of lead singer Pato, the wife of the band manager, and other band members’ relatives.

It was found that the emergency exits in the club were locked for the same reasons these doors are usually locked in clubs – so that people can’t get in without paying (or in some cases, so people can’t leave without paying). As a result of the fire, Mayor Aníbal Ibarra was removed from office, and many others received lengthy jail terms. Club owner Emir Omar Chabán got over 10 years, the manager of Callejeros, Diego Argañaraz got at least 56 years, and Subcommissioner Carlos Díaz got 8 years for bribery. To make matters worse for the band, they were retried in 2011 in an appeals court and got at least 7 years in prison each.

Source: Wikipedia

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