Nightclub owner attempts suicide

Jan. 31, 2013 at 7:39 AM
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SANTA MARIA, Brazil, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- An owner of the Brazilian nightclub in which 235 people died when fire swept through the club tried to kill himself while in custody, police said.

Santa Maria Police Chief Lylian Carus said Elissandro Spohr, one of four arrested following Sunday's fire at the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, tried to kill himself while he was under police guard at a hospital, where he is being treated for smoke inhalation, CNN reported Wednesday.

Carus said Spohr removed the shower hose while he was showering and tied it to a window, but police interrupted before he placed the other end around his neck.

"Everything indicates he was going to commit suicide by hanging," she said. "He's emotionally destroyed."

Besides Spohr, police arrested Mauro Hoffman, another Kiss owner; Marcelo de Jesus dos Santos, vocalist for the band performing that night, and Luciano Bonilha, the show's producer.

Spohr, through his attorney, had said the club was operating legally and blamed the deaths on a "disastrous" operation by the fire department, the O Globo newspaper reported.

Among other things, the attorney said firefighters acted irresponsibly by using civilians in the rescue.

During its performance, the band Gurizada Fandangueira used pyrotechnics they knew were for outdoor use only because they were less expensive than indoor-use fireworks, police said. When the pyrotechnics were lit, the ceiling caught fire and the flames spread quickly.

The club's attorney said foam was in the ceiling for better soundproofing.

The club was filled beyond its legal capacity with a crowd of 2,000 people. The club's original license permitted 691 people.

The panicked crowd broke into a stampede but hit a bottleneck trying to reach the only exit, the club's front door down a narrow hallway.

Besides the criminal investigation, Santa Maria's public prosecutor said his office will conduct a investigation to determine civil liability, state media reported.

"The introduction of the civil investigation allows us to request documents and produce evidence to establish that kind of responsibility," public prosecutor Cesar Carlan said. "We are, at this moment, watching the police work, where the evidence produced will be useful for our own inquiry."

Investigators said they found evidence of faulty and phony fire extinguishers at the club, which had expired fire and municipal licenses. Fire officials said the club wasn't required to close because it was in the process of renewing its license.

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