January 29, 2013

A steamy nightclub, then an inferno and scene of horror

By JULIANA BARBASSA The Associated Press

(Continued from page 2)

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A man cries Monday at the burial of a victim who died in the nightclub fire in Santa Maria, Brazil.

The Associated Press

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A girl cries during a march in a plaza near the Kiss nightclub honoring the victims of Sunday’s fatal fire inside the club in Santa Maria, Brazil, on Monday.

The Associated Press

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'WHY COULDN'T THEY GET OUT?'

At Charity Hospital, the region's largest, "it was a war scene," said Dr. Ronald Bossemeyer, the technical director.

"Trying to give care, comfort the living, and keep family members who started to arrive from overwhelming everything -- it was madness," he said, choking back tears. "The wounded, the doctors, people running with saline, with oxygen. We've never seen so many patients."

As families waited, nurses and technicians ran back and forth, bringing an earring, a shoe, a wallet, anything that could help identify those still living, Bossemeyer said.

As doctors were at work saving those who could be saved, a group of mothers was calling around to check on one another. Elaine Marques Goncalves woke up to that terrible question: Do you know where your child is?

With a jolt, she realized two of her sons, Gustavo and Deivis, had not come home the night before. "I knew they'd gone to a club, but I didn't know which one," she said.

Hours later, she got some good news: Gustavo had burns on 20 percent of his body and had suffered two heart attacks as his lungs failed to draw oxygen, but he was alive and being flown to the state capital, Porto Alegre, for treatment.

"I had time to put my hands on him and say, 'My dear, your mother is here with you,' " she said. "He was sedated, but I know he could hear. Then I had to tear myself away and go find my other son."

Hours passed as the dead piled up in the city gym. It took an entire day of anguish before she learned what she'd dreaded most: Deivis was dead.

As he lay there among basketball hoops and water coolers, one body among so many, she asked the questions on everyone's mind.

"How can a club just burn like that? People have to know what happened here," she said. "It won't bring back my son, but I have to ask. This nightclub was beyond capacity. The whole world has to know. Why couldn't they get out?"

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