Argentina: Families challenge government corruption in seeking justice for children killed in horrific concert fire

By Cecilia Mansilla

 

Five years ago on December 30, 2004, the most cruel, unimaginable tragedy to hit Argentina happened when during a rock concert 194 people died. The case is still on trial.

ARGENTINA: Buenos Aires is a rock music capital. People here love the music. Rock and Roll shows are common, especially for teenagers. There are always big shows in stadiums for well-known bands (this year we had AC/DC, Depeche Mode, Kiss… and Metallica is coming in a few weeks).

Buenos Aires is also home to the big “National Rock” movement. And Callejeros, the headlining band on that tragic night, was part of this movement. At the time, Callejeros was a band growing in popularity and fans.

The nightclub, Cromañón, was allowed to have 1,031 attendees — that night there were almost 3.000 teenagers. Four of the six doors (some of them fire exits) were chained shut so that “people won’t enter without paying.”

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It proved to be a deathtrap.

With almost three times the amount of people legally allowed into the concert that night, the show began with Omar Chabán (the owner of the place) announcing to the screaming crowd: “Do not use pyrotechnic flares, they will burn.” In spite of this warning, a few minutes after the music started the fire happened.

This is the typical Cromañon picture. The shoes are the symbol for that night… this is because the place is still full of shoes of the victims.

It’s usual in Argentina to use fireworks during rock shows, but in outdoors places, not inside a club. But someone used fireworks.

The décor inside the disco proved to be extremely flammable. With the place full (almost 2,000 people over the permitted limit by the government), the doors closed and the disco dark, people could not get out.

It was impossible to escape, even though some of the same victims got back into the club to save others, some of them died trying. Omar Chabán, the owner, disappeared.

Unlike most accidents of this type, the victims did not die from being crushed by falling debris or burning, they died from inhaling poisonous gases, smoke and carbon monoxide. They died because the people in charge didn’t care.

The owner and everyone who was to profit from the concert were just interested in getting more money. Less money was spent on security — it was easier just to lock doors. The decorations were cheap — and highly flammable and because the ultimate goal of the night was greed, the profiteers sold almost 3,000 tickets. And people died because of them, because of their negligence.

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After the fire, the only things left behind by the victims are their shoes and smudgy handprints on the wall as they tried to escape the poisonous fumes.


 

As a result of the tragedy where 194, mostly teenagers, died, the mayor of Buenos Aires was dismissed, Omar Chabán spent some time in prison, and the band plays on…Callejeros’ music is still played on the radio and heard in discos, causing the victims’ families to suffer as they are reminded of their lost loved ones.

The band has stated that they are innocent, but some people think differently The band members were co-organizers, of the concert, so they knew about the extra tickets sold, about the breaches in security, about the problems with the place… they knew… or they didn’t care at that time.

Either way, the victims’ families are asking for justice. They want justice from the mayor of Buenos Aires, the nightclub owner, the police officers and firemen who regulated permits, the person in charge of security — and the band.

The trial started last year, and the families and friends of the victims are still waiting for justice. It was one of the biggest tragedies of the country.

“We lost 194 souls, but heaven got 194 new angels,” Nelida Gomez, mother of Mariano who died that night, likes to say.

The trial is so difficult because there is not just one responsible party for this tragedy, but it was a chain of negligence, irresponsibility and greed that caused the preventable loss of innocent lives.

For 2010, all of Buenos Aires waits for Justice, we hope we can get it.

Learn more about Cecilia:

 

Cecilia Miguel Mansilla is a 24-year-old student who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Studying journalism, Cecilia has been a TV news and radio producer for two years. These days, however, she finds herself working for an information technology company and isn’t finding the experience as rewarding as journalism.

I’m trying to get back to my profession, to what I really love — journalism.


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One Comment;

  1. Connie Cratin said:

    I will publish this on my Website. Is there a complete Spanish Version of this Article? You are doing great work! Best Regards.

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