The tragic fire in the Santa Maria nightclub in Brazil on January 27 is a sober reminder why government regulates commercial establishments and enforces safety regulations. The fire left countless family members and friends to grieve the loss of 234 lives.
The investigation is ongoing regarding the cause of the fire, but early reports pointed to a flare from the performing band’s pyrotechnic show as the probable cause.
Col. Guido Pedroso de Melo, the commander of the city Fire Department, said security guards had locked exits, which increased the panic as people in the club stampeded to the doors, according to a New York Times report. These locked doors most likely contributed to the high number of fatalities.
The disaster ranks among the deadliest of nightclub fires, comparable to the 2003 blaze in Rhode Island that killed 100 people, one in 2004 in Buenos Aires in which 194 were killed, and a fire at a club in China in 2000 in which 309 people died, the nytimes.com reported.
Many of the victims died of smoke inhalation, officials said.
“The smoke spread very quickly,” Aline Santos Silva, 29, one of the survivors, told the Globo News television network, according to nytimes.com. “Those who were closest to the stage where the band was playing had the most difficulty getting out.”
There are approximately 4, 283 bars and nightclubs in New York, according to the Trade Organization of the Nightlife and Club Industry. The good news for U.S. nightclub-goers is that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces regulations regarding workplace safety and emergency exits from commercial buildings.
Under OSHA requirements, employees and others must be able to open exit doors from the inside at all times without having to use a key, tool or special knowledge. The exceptions are in prisons or mental health facilities in which staff is available to unlock the door 24 hours a day.
Hopefully, the regulations mean that NYC won’t ever experience anything like the Santa Maria fire. But if you or a family member has been injured due to someone else’s carelessness, recklessness or negligence in the workplace or a commercial establishment, contact an experienced New York personal injury attorney today for a free case evaluation.