|Date||30 December 2004|
|Venue||República Cromañón nightclub|
|Location||Buenos Aires, Argentina|
República Cromañón was a facility that held concerts and events. It was located on 3060-3066-3070 Bartolomé Mitre in the Balvanera neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. It was operated by Omar Chabán, and opened on 12 April 2004, with a concert of the same band who played the day of the fire: Callejeros.
The club was in a two story building, with a main entrance with six doors behind it leading into the main area of the nightclub, on the night of the fire four of the six doors were locked. There was also a connection to a nearby hotel, an emergency exit that was locked, and another emergency exit that was blocked by a fence in front of the stage. Fire safety measures in the building were extremely lacking with no reports of a fire detection or alarm system, emergency lighting, and fire suppression with ten of the fifteen fire extinguishers were depressurized and unusable. The nightclub's fire safety license had run out the previous month.
The venue was hosting rock group Callejeros and around 3,000 people were in attendance, which was double the venue's capacity of 1,500. The blaze was started when a pyrotechnic flare (a popular device in New Year's Eve celebrations) was set off and ignited foam in the ceiling. The materials used in the building for decoration were flammable: mostly wood, styrofoam, acoustic panels and a plastic net (media sombra). This plastic net was hung from the ceiling and caught fire first, melting into a rain of fire. In some parts of the building, teddy bear stuffing was used as a cheap alternative to wool fiber. The owner and the band's lead singer had told the patrons not to use flares inside the building.
Four of the six doors, some of which were fire exits, were chained shut so that "people would not enter without paying", according to Mayor Aníbal Ibarra. Most of the victims died from inhaling poisonous gases, and carbon monoxide. After the fire the technical institution INTI found that the level of toxicity, due to the materials and volume of the building, was 225 ppm of cyanide in the air. A lethal dose for rats is between 150 ppm and 220 ppm, meaning the air in the building was highly toxic. Many of the victims were identified to be in their teens and 20s, but rescue workers clearing the club also found children and babies. This is potentially due to survivor accounts that a bathroom inside the nightclub had been used as a nursery, where parents could leave their children for the show.
Following the disaster, an Argentine judge issued a national and international arrest order against Omar Chabán, local businessman and owner of República Cromañón and other nightclubs, including one called Cemento that had been closed by court orders many times before. Chabán was located at one of his houses in the neighbourhood of Montserrat and was arrested.
Police are still seeking those responsible for setting off the flare, the guilty parties could face eight to twenty years in prison.
President Néstor Kirchner decreed three days of national mourning, and city authorities forbade concerts and closed all nightclubs in Buenos Aires during the mourning period, only to open again, one by one, after they had been checked and approved by the fire department. Pope John Paul II expressed his condolences to victims families in a message sent to officials in Argentine churches.
The parents of many of the victims have worked to keep the victims memories alive, by planting 194 trees in honor of the deceased, and creating a traveling exhibit of the victims' photographs. A ceramics factory has donated memorial plaques to be dispersed across the country.
It later became known that República Cromañón had been overdue for a fire hazard inspection since late November 2004. Although Buenos Aires Mayor Aníbal Ibarra blamed the Fire Department of the Argentine Federal Police (responsible for the inspections), several flaws in the city's inspection system soon surfaced. In addition to the city's poor planning for a disaster of this magnitude, critics pointed to Ibarra for failing to reorganize Buenos Aires' inspection system. A few days after the fire, Ibarra reshuffled the entire Buenos Aires security and emergency administration. The City Legislature announced that Mayor Ibarra was going to face a questioning session, but failed to achieve the necessary votes to force his questioning. Shortly thereafter, Ibarra voluntarily submitted to a questioning session, and announced a recall referendum to decide whether he would remain in office or not.
Relatives and friends of the dead organized several marches to Plaza de Mayo demanding the resignation of Aníbal Ibarra as Mayor of Buenos Aires, the conviction of Omar Chabán, and a more efficient inspection system. Some of these marches ended with incidents between protesters and the police.
On 14 November 2005, an impeachment jury formed by the Buenos Aires Legislature suspended Mayor Ibarra for four months, pending an investigation of his performance that could lead to his removal. He accused the opposition of manipulating the families of República Cromañón's victims in order to ruin his career. On 7 March 2006, after four months of deliberations, the impeachment jury voted to remove Ibarra from office.
A trial started on 19 August 2008 and finished 1 year later. The judges heard from over 300 witnesses, who claimed young fans has lit a flare that struck the ceiling, and it was revealed that the band was in charge of the concerts organization, security and entry into the club that night. But that the band was not at fault for the club being given a permit even though it lacked basic fire safety measures such as fire extinguishers, working emergency exits and nonflammable walls and ceilings. The defendants were sentenced as follows:
- Omar Chabán: 20-year prison sentence
- Raúl Villarreal: 1-year suspended prison sentence
- Callejeros: Acquitted, then retried in 2011: 11-year prison sentence (resentenced to 7 years in prison in 2012)
- Diego Argañaraz (manager of Callejeros): 18-year prison sentence
- Fabiana Fiszbin (ex Control secretary): 2-year prison sentence
- Ana María Fernández (ex Buenos Aires government servant): 2-year prison sentence
- Subcommissioner Carlos Díaz: 18-year prison sentence
- Commissioner Miguel Belay: acquitted
The band members of Los Callajeros were absolved in the 2009 trail, but the appeals court later found that they shared responsibility for the fire, in the 2011 ruling. Evidence to their complicity were witnesses statements that the band had encouraged the audience to fire flares.
- List of nightclub fires
- Circumstances of the following fires have strong similarities to the República Cromañón nightclub fire:
- "Argentina: 7 Members of Band Convicted in Club Fire". nytimes.com. 20 April 2011. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
- Strick, Jonathan (2014). "Development of Safety Measures for Nightclubs". International Master of Science in Fire Safety Engineering: 27–30.
- "Argentine Nightclub Fire Kills 175". Retrieved 14 May 2018.
- media sombra – images
- algarveresident (7 January 2005). "Argentina mourns victims of nightclub blaze". Portugal Resident. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
- "Families identify blaze victims - Lewiston Sun Journal". Lewiston Sun Journal. 2 January 2005. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
- "Buenos Aires still mourns those lost in nightclub fire - Taipei Times". www.taipeitimes.com. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
- Press, MICHAEL WARREN, The Associated. "Argentine nightclub owner guilty in deadly fire". sandiegouniontribune.com. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
- Carroll, Rory (21 April 2011). "Argentinian band convicted over nightclub fire". the Guardian. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to República Cromañón nightclub fire.|
- Documentary Video explaining several government flaws that led to the tragedy
- Fire at Buenos Aires Nightclub Kills 174" at ABCNEWS.com
- "Scores die in Argentina club fire" at BBC news
- Que No Se Repita: Main organization that groups victim and survivor families and is undertaking legal actions.
- The official list of death in the tragedy
- Los pibes de Cromañón Memoria y Justicia por Nuestros Pibes – Grupo de Familiares, amigos y sobrevivientes de Cromañón.