In their decision handed down today, the Criminal Appeals Court found the members of Los Callejeros “criminally responsible” for the deadly 2004 nightclub fire that killed 194 people. All six men were also found guilty of negligence and face sentences of five to eleven years of prison.
The tribunal thus reversed a 2009 verdict that initially absolved the band members and placed the main verdict of guilt on the owner of the Cromañón nightclub, Omar Chaban. Chaban, who originally faced twenty years in prison, could be behind bars for as much as eleven years after the court reduced his charge to negligence.
Other figures, including the group’s current manager and several former local officials, also had their sentences reduced. A separate tribunal will soon decide the definitive sentences for all the defendants.
Tensions were high at the courtroom as police officers clashed with soon of the relatives of the deceased who were barred from entering the main courtroom. Their pain was worsened by the ruling that some of them viewed as “incomplete justice” while others criticized the court’s decision to remove a massive makeshift memorial built in memory of the victims.
Most of the dead from the 2004 blaze were teens and young concertgoers though the tragedy could’ve been averted. According to a Spanish-language article from the AP:
According to eyewitnesses the fire in the nightclub occurred after a flare was lit and hit the ceiling.Image- AFP via BBC News (Nearly 200 people died in the República Cromañón nightclub fire in December 2004.)
Most of the young concertgoers died asphyxiated and trapped while trying to flee the packed disco which had its emergency exit closed shut. Los Callejeros were in charge of security and the entry of concert attendees.
The nightclub was allowed to be open and functional despite not complying with safety regulations. The uproar over the incident cost then-Buenos Aires mayor Aníbal Ibarra to lose his post.
Online Sources- Buenos Aires Herald, eldiario24.com, Clarin.com, La Nacion, El Nuevo Herald