A Spanish court on Tuesday opened a manslaughter probe into a deadly fire that killed 13 people inside a nightclub which had ignored an earlier closure order.
Spain’s deadliest nightclub fire in decades broke out early on Sunday in a building housing the Teatre and Fonda Milagros discos on the outskirts of Murcia.
Murcia City Council had in January 2022 ordered the nightclubs shut, since the company that operated them only had a licence for one of them — the Teatre — and not for Fonda which was created later, deputy mayor Antonio Navarro told a news conference on Monday. ALSO READ: Murcia nightclub where 13 died in fire had been ordered shut since Jan 2022.
However, Spanish have since reported that despite the closure order of the nightclubs, the Teatre passed a municipal health inspection in March 2023. The spokesperson for the establishment, María Dolores Abellán, said that this fact corroborates that ‘everyone knew that the establishment was functioning’.
The court in Murcia, where the blaze broke out early on Sunday, said it had opened the investigation to ‘clarify the facts and determine criminal responsibility’ for the blaze, Spain’s deadliest nightclub fire in three decades.
Police and forensic investigators entered the premises on Monday to try and determine how the fire started and whether it was the result of negligence.
The court said forensic medical teams had on Monday ‘completed the autopsies, collecting the necessary data for identification and determining the causes and circumstances of death’.
The investigation will need to determine if the nightclub operators failed to take adequate safety measures, the city’s top prosecutor José Luis Díaz Manzanera told La Opinion de Murcia newspaper.
If the deaths were caused by negligence or inadequate safety measures, those responsible could face up to nine years in jail ‘as it is a case involving a large number of deaths’, he said.
Any search of the venue would be ‘exhaustive’ to gather as much evidence as possible.
‘We must go centimetre by centimetre, checking everything,’ he said.
‘Let’s see how it ends up. There may have been a short circuit that was not caused by negligence,’ he added.
By Monday night, police confirmed six of the victims had been identified by their fingerprints in what officials warned would be a ‘very difficult’ process which would take time.
Diaz Manzanera said he hoped the outcome of the probe would not be the same as that which followed Spain’s worst-ever nightclub fire in Madrid in December 1983, when 81 people died.
Only one person was sentenced over that tragedy, and jailed for just two years.
The latest blaze is the worst nightclub fire since 1990 when 43 people died in a blaze in the northeastern city of Zaragoza. In that case ‘no one was held responsible’, he added.
ALSO READ: At least 13 dead in Murcia nightclub fire.