The Sad Truth About The Kiss Nightclub Fire

It was January 27, 2013, and the last weekend of summer break for many Brazilian college students, many of them headed to Kiss nightclub to enjoy the last moments of freedom before returning to their classes in the city of Santa Maria when the unthinkable happened (via CNN). By Sunday morning, most of them would be gone, and the rest would be injured, some severely.

The live entertainment for that night was Gurizada Fandangueira, a local band whose set started at 2:15 a.m. (per HGI). Five songs into their performance, the roof was on fire. Accounts differ as to what exactly happened. According to DW, some believe the fire was caused by the band's pyrotechnic display, others say one of the band members lit a firework.

Either way, the fire began to spread and hot ash fell onto the floor and into the audience. Young college students who moments before were singing and dancing, became aware of the danger. Suddenly, panic ensued. People began to push and shove each other, leading to a deadly domino effect.

The Kiss Nightclub Fire is one of the deadliest in history

According to Agencia Brasil, 242 people died as a result of the fire. Many of them were college students between the ages of 18-21 (via NCBI). Over 100 were hospitalized, and many were in critical condition. Per CNN, most of the deaths and injuries came from smoke inhalation. In addition, several were trampled when they tried to exit the nightclub. In the chaos, security believed that attendees were trying to leave without paying. They did not realize that there was fire and thus, caused a stampede.

As the nightclub filled with smoke, people became confused and couldn't find the exit. According to Reuters, some of them ended up in the bathroom where they ultimately died. As the roof collapsed, many became trapped. The scene was later described as looking like a war zone.

What's worse is the lack of safety enforcement that was discovered after the fact. The nightclub had a maximum capacity of 1,000 people. However, there were about 2,000 people on the night of the fire. Moreover, there was no alarm or sprinkler system. There was only one exit and firefighters had to cut a hole in the wall to allow more people to escape.

Simply put, more could have been done to ensure the safety and survival of the attendees. Per the NFPA, the Kiss Nightclub fire is the third-deadliest nightclub fire in history. Eight firemen were later charged for not checking or enforcing any fire safety regulations at the nightclub and 16 others (including band members and the nightclub's owners) were also charged (via BBC).