A tragic nightclub fire claimed 231 lives Sunday morning in Santa Maria, Brazil. Now, eyewitness survivors are beginning to talk about the fire that ravaged the Kiss club—and so far, early reports seem to indicate that a band's pyrotechnics display set off the blaze.
According to Reuters, witnesses say "the band set off a pyrotechnics display at about 2:30 AM" and that most of the victims in the nightclub died of "suffocation from toxic fumes."
The band in question—a Brazilian folk-pop outfit called Gurizada Fandangueira who had played club Kiss several times before—lost their accordion player in the fire and have already commented on their role in the tragedy. "There were lots of wires [in the ceiling], maybe it was a short circuit," guitarist Rodrigo Lemos Martin told the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper.
Somewhat conversely, the guitarist also acknowledged the fire could possibly be traced back to them. "We had played around five songs when I looked up and noticed the roof was burning. It might have happened because of the Sputnik, the machine we use to create a luminous effect with sparks," Gurizada Fandangueira's guitarist told Radio Gaucho. "When the fire started, a guard passed us a fire extinguisher. The singer tried to use it but it wasn't working."
Police have detained members of the band and the nightclub's owner for questioning in their role in the tragedy.
Furthermore, the band's guitarist said Gurizada Fandangueira have been deluged with online threats from people who blame them for the tragedy. "People on the social networks are saying we have to pay for what happened," Martin said. "I'm afraid there could be retaliation."
This incident is the worst nightclub fire since 2000, when 309 people perished in a club in Luoyang, China. It's also just under a month shy of the 10-year-anniversary of the Rhode Island nightclub fire, which was also caused by a band's pyrotechnics display.