Early Sunday morning, over 230 people were killed in a horrific nightclub fire in Southern Brazil.  Similar to the night club fire in Rhode Island in 2003, which left over a hundred people dead and 200 more injured, the blaze in Brazil looks to have been caused by the band’s pyrotechnics igniting insulation in the ceiling.

Several arrests have been made in connection with the fire for investigative purposes as victims’ families begin to pick up the pieces and cope with this horrific tragedy. Today, funerals will begin in the city of Santa Maria, Brazil, for the more than 200 people that lost their lives in the nightmarish event.

As a practicing personal injury attorney in Providence, RI, I helped get many of the cases stemming from the 2003 deadly Rhode Island nightclub fire into federal court. Few understand the scope that such a disaster can have on the victims.  For the victims that lose their lives, their families are left to deal with the financial consequences of losing a member of the family, possibly a primary provider.  Children can be left to deal with the loss of a parent or both parents and forced to fend for themselves.  Parents can be forced to cope the emotional scarring of losing a child.

For the survivors, many are left with permanent physical injuries such as scarring and severe burns.  The lucky victims that manage to escape bodily harm and permanent physical injury, are left in a fragile emotional state that can lead to permanent emotional scarring, which can significantly detriment a victim’s ability lead a normal life thereafter.

Accountability for these types of unthinkable events can be difficult to pinpoint.  But, it is incredibly important to narrow down who is responsible for these tragedies, if only to set an example for future nightclub owners as to their responsibilities.  Those responsibilities to guests include safety protocols that must be adhered to in order to meet certain standards.  Failure to comply with such requirements should result in stiff penalties and fines, so that club patrons are protected and ensured they will be kept out of harm’s way.

As a lawyer with over 40 years of experience in personal injury law, and because of my familiarity with these types of cases, a familiarity I acquired while our firm was fighting for the victims of the 2003 Rhode Island night club fire, I can tell you there will be numerous factors used to determine the cause of this tragedy and to determine where the fault will ultimately lie.  Early reports indicate the club was at capacity with 1,000 to 2,000 people.  If this is deemed to be “over-capacity,” the club will likely face numerous lawsuits pertaining to the fire.

Fire codes are put in place to protect people.  The capacity of a building is determined by fire marshals and enforced in order to ensure there is enough space for people to exit in case of emergency.  When you have a building that is filled to capacity and more, if there is a situation where people need to make a hasty exit, chaos ensues and people are likely to be seriously injured or even killed while exiting the building.  This is evident in prior examples of these types of disasters.

In Rhode Island, the 2003 nightclub fire prompted officials to enact and enforce sweeping changes to the State’s fire code with one intention;  a tragedy like the night club fire never occur again.  Sprinklers are now required in nightclubs and bars with occupancy limits of 100 people or more, nightclub workers must be trained in fire safety and money needs to be set aside for fire safety classes.  Rhode Island has also banned the use of pyrotechnics in all of its venues with the exception of its largest public arenas, and local fire marshals are now able to write tickets for violations and order immediate repairs.

So far, it seems history is doomed to repeat itself, as nightclub owners have not taken prior disasters seriously enough to stop them from occurring again.  But, the hope is that in determining who is responsible for this deadly blaze, and holding them accountable, future nightclub owners will be prompted to take proper safety precautions in the future, in order to prevent tragedies like the 2003 Rhode Island nightclub fire and now the Brazil night club fire from ever happening again.

Written By: Ronald J. Resmini

Last Updated : Friday, July 21, 2023