Romanian club owners face manslaughter probe over fire, death toll at 31

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 02, 2015 11:02 AM

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian prosecutors opened a criminal manslaughter investigation on Monday against the three owners of the Bucharest nightclub where a fire killed 31 people and injured nearly 200 during a weekend rock concert.

On Monday, an unidentified man died of his injuries in hospital, bringing the death toll to 31, deputy prime minister Gabriel Oprea was quoted saying by local news agency Mediafax.

The fire that ravaged the Colectiv nightclub is one of the worst disasters to hit the European Union state in decades and has shaken up Romanians, who are distrustful of building safety and the way local authorities issue permits and licenses.

The club burned down quickly on Friday night when fireworks used indoors lit a pillar covered in non-fireproofed insulation foam, then spread to the ceiling, triggering a stampede and trapping many of the roughly 400 people inside.

"Teams of police officers, forensic experts and pyrotechnical specialists are continuing an on-site investigation and hearings," prosecutors said in a statement.

"Costin Mincu, Alin George Anastasescu and Paul Gancea, the club's shareholders, were brought in on Nov. 2 for hearings as suspects of crimes of manslaughter and injury."

The three all declined comment as they arrived at the prosecutor's office for Monday's closed-door hearings.

Hundreds of people gathered outside Colectiv on Monday to light candles and bring flowers in remembrance of the victims, after thousands marched in silence on Sunday.

Blood donation centers across Romania were overrun with people, while volunteers were taking food and water to Bucharest hospitals for medical staff and families of those injured.

Just under 140 people were still hospitalized on Monday, and more than half in critical condition, doctors told reporters.

Romanians were rallied on social media under the slogan "Corruption kills", blaming authorities for a failure to properly inspect night clubs and other spaces that require permits.

The owner of Expirat, one of Bucharest's busiest nightclubs, tucked away in a basement in the popular Old Town, said he was shutting the place down. "Starting today I can no longer risk lives," Andrei Sosa said on his Facebook page.

In the central Romanian city of Brasov, rock club Rockstadt said it was temporarily closing, planning to replace non-fireproof insulation and install sprinklers "to make absolutely certain we will never be in ... that tragic situation".

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Mark Heinrich)