Lame Horse fire
Memorial of memory of victims of the fire in the night club "Lame Horse"
|Date||December 5, 2009|
|Time||01:08 a.m. (YEKT) /11:08 p.m. December 4, 2009 (MSK)|
|Location||9 Kuybyshev Street, Leninsky City District, Perm, Perm Krai, Russia|
|156 people killed by smoke inhalation, burns and stampede|
The Lame Horse fire occurred on December 5, 2009, around 1 a.m. local time in the nightclub Khromaya Loshad (Russian: «Хромая лошадь», "Lame Horse") at 9 Kuybyshev Street, Perm, Russia. The fire started when sparks from fireworks ignited the low ceiling and its willow twig covering. The fire quickly spread to the walls and damaged the building's electrical wiring, causing the lights to fail.
More than 150 people died. According to initial reports, up to 160 more were injured in the fire; however many of the wounded lost their lives in the following days in hospitals. The nightclub was in the middle of a celebration of its eighth anniversary at the time. A total of 282 people had reportedly been invited to the club's anniversary party.
Approximately 300 people were in the club when the fire began. Ignition occurred when a performance artist threw cold-flame pyrotechnics into the air. Sparks from the fireworks hit the plastic covering of the ceiling, igniting it. An announcer then told the guests to evacuate. As the crowd began to calmly exit the building, the wooden decorations on the interior walls of the club ignited, and the building filled with smoke.
When the evacuation started, some people left via rear exits. The vast intake of oxygen turned the club's hall into a large fire tube and boosted the spread of fire. As fumes and smoke overtook the air, panic erupted and patrons stampeded toward the exit. According to witnesses, one leaf of the club's double doors was sealed shut, and the public was unaware of the backdoor exit behind the stage not shown by emergency lighting.
A club visitor's report about emergency service activity:
|“||After I had got out, there were no firemen or emergency service for about twenty minutes — nobody at all. <…> There were only two ambulances altogether. They managed to take six or seven men and left. No more ambulance cars arrived, at least I saw none. Firemen had pulled out a number of people by then. Half-clothed, they were simply laid on the cold asphalt. Nobody cared for them. It seemed that the aid was needed but there were no ambulances. <…> People were lying on the ground for about an hour and a half. Definitely for no less than an hour. It could be that many of them died because of this. Because of the cold. It was 16 degrees below zero outdoors. These were the strongest impressions: people lying in snow for an hour without any aid.||”|
Another report of a volunteer involved in evacuation:
|“||I rushed to the ambulance which for unclear reasons was standing far off at the crossroads. I asked why they were idling and they replied that they hadn’t been given orders. It turned out that we pulled out a lot of people most of which were still alive. I think it was possible to save around 70 percent of them within first seconds. But nobody helped. <…> I drove to the 9th medical post. Asked a guard where the toxicology department was. Found the door of the admission room and started to knock but nobody opened it for a long time. Then they looked out saying that they would come out soon and vanished. So I came in by myself, delivered them a man and drove back. By that time the officials had already arrived and the place of tragedy had been cordoned. I ran to firemen, asked how I could help but there were enough men without me, so I went round looking for injured who needed to be taken to their homes. Most of the people whom we had brought out earlier were already covered.||”|
As of January 1, 2010, 153 people are known to have died as a result of the fire, (94 died at the scene and the rest in hospitals) and 62 victims are still receiving medical treatment in hospitals. During three days following the fire, EMERCOM used specially equipped "mobile hospital" Il-76TD aircraft to transport 65 injured to Moscow and 28 to St. Petersburg. Most of the injured who were transported to Moscow and Saint Petersburg have poor prognoses for recovery. Currently 35 fire victims in hospitals have very poor prognoses. Only several victims were released from hospitals by the end of December. Most victims in more serious condition would need 2–3 months of treatment and likely a year rehabilitation afterwards, including multiple cosmetic surgeries.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin dispatched two planes equipped to transport burn trauma victims. President Dmitry Medvedev sent many high-level government officials to Perm to aid the victims, manage the incident, and start the criminal investigation, commenting that those who started the blaze "have neither brains, nor conscience". Medvedev declared December 7, 2009 a national day of mourning.
Rumors have circulated that the incident was a terrorist plot, but the Russian Prosecutor's Investigative Committee spokesman, Vladimir Markin, declared that the fire was caused by unsanctioned use of fireworks indoors.
The fire was the deadliest in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The previous high death toll for a fire was in March 2007, at a Krasnodar assisted living home, which claimed 63 lives. There have been several other deadly fires in public places around Russia in recent years, attributed to the lax enforcement of fire safety regulations.
The disaster bears some similarities to the 2003 Station fire in the U.S. state of Rhode Island, caused by the improper usage of indoor pyrotechnics which ignited the flammable sound-proofing foam in the building, killing 100 people. Some survivors and relatives of the victims of that fire expressed their sadness that a similar tragedy had occurred again.
An emergency services spokesman stated most victims died from smoke inhalation and/or carbon monoxide poisoning. Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu issued a ban on fireworks at many upcoming New Years and Christmas festivities, and President Medvedev ordered a complete review of fire safety regulations. Additionally, by mid December, Moscow Fire Safety Authority motioned suspending activity of 54 nightclubs and cafes in Moscow alone after surprise checks of 450 facilities revealed safety violations on part of these businesses. Typical violations were lack of a fire alarm, bars installed on windows, construction materials blocking walkways. Some contested court decision and were going to file complaints to prosecutor's office. Others, including popular Moscow clubs B2 and IKRA, fixed their violations quickly and resumed operations. St. Petersburg Fire Safety Authority as a result of surprise checks motioned suspension of activity for 25 venues.
On December 9, 2009, the head of city administration Arkady Kats announced his decision to resign citing the disaster as a reason. On the same day, Perm Krai Governor Oleg Chirkunov accepted resignation of the local government. He announced that the new government will be formed only after the fire investigation is finished. On December 11, Perm City Council did not accept Arkady Kats' resignation but instead suspended him from duty for a month. On December 16, opposition party A Just Russia also called for Emergency Situation Minister Shoigu to resign.
During her Moscow concert on December 9, 2009, Whitney Houston dedicated the song "I Look To You" to the victims of the nightclub fire saying, "I want to sing this song in memory of those who died in the Russian city of Perm".
Investigation and trial
On December 5, 2009, four persons were detained in relation to the Lame Horse fire. A court later authorized a two-month preliminary detention for the suspects on December 6. One of the accused, Anatoly Zak, allegedly a co-owner of Lame Horse, fled Perm but was later captured by Russian police. Zak has denied allegations of club ownership. Zak had an Israeli passport when he was captured, fueling speculations that he was trying to get to Yekaterinburg and leave Russia via Koltsovo International Airport.
On December 7, four of the detained suspects were formally charged. Anatoly Zak, executive director Svetlana Yefremova, and caretaker art director Oleg Fetkulov were charged with violations of fire safety rules leading to the deaths of 2 or more people (Article 219, part 3 of the Criminal Code of Russia, carrying a maximum sentence of 7 years). The latter suspect also lost his wife Yevgeniya Fetkulova on December 13 who was present at the club and suffered from multiple burns and smoke inhalation she received during fire. Investigators allowed Oleg Fetkulov to see his deceased wife for the last time at the local morgue before her funeral. Sergei Derbenyov, director of the pyrotechnics company Pirotsvet (Russian: ООО Пиротехническая компания 'Пироцвет') that supplied the incendiaries, was charged with negligent manslaughter of 2 or more people (Article 109, part 3 of the Criminal Code of Russia, carrying a maximum sentence of 5 years). The fifth suspect, Alexandr Titlyanov, a leaseholder of the premises who also owned 85% of the issued shares of the club, was heavily injured in the fire. Later he was transported to a Moscow clinic with burns over 80% of his body and died on December 9, 2009 in a Moscow clinic before any charges were brought against him.
Investigators say the fireworks that started the blaze were outdoor pyrotechnics, prohibited for use indoors.
On December 8, 2009, during his visit to Perm, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin acknowledged that local and federal officials were partly responsible for the fire. Later on the same day, EMERCOM dismissed seven officials from Perm Fire Safety Supervision Authority, including its chief and all his deputies. Investigators also found that a fire safety compliance report from 2003 was signed by an inspector who was dismissed in 2002. The next annual fire safety inspection of the Lame Horse was due on December 7.
According to Vladimir Markin, spokesperson for Investigation Committee of the Prosecutor General's Office, the court approved the motion to confiscate all property of Anatoly Zak. The main reason for the motion was the charges filed by the victims of the inferno. Anatoly Zak reportedly owns or has interest in 28 commercial entities. Additionally, 18 pieces of property are believed to belong to him, including apartments, house and real estate which he leased for profit.
On December 11, 2009, Vladimir Mukhutdinov, who was a chief fire safety inspector of the local Fire Safety Authority, was formally charged with negligence on duty leading to a death of 2 or more people (Article 293, part 3, carrying a maximum sentence of 7 years). The court sanctioned Mukhutdinov's arrest later that day. Mukhudtinov felt weak in the courtroom and had to be hospitalized.
Initial findings by the investigation team suggest that the club premises certificate was obtained in 2007 in a fraudulent way. Officials turned a blind eye and there were no official checks of the construction work carried out around 2004-2006. Checks performed after the fire revealed some critically important differences with the original planning permission. By initial design, premises were to have large windows which would have allowed people to escape. Moreover, the club licence officially allowed 50 visitors only. However, a new extension wall did not have any windows at all and large windows were bricked in leaving two exits for several hundreds people inside. It was also revealed by the ongoing investigation that the name of the club had not been registered by any of the tax authorities of Perm Krai.
The formal investigation was completed on June 4, 2010 with indictments issued against Zak, Yefremova, Fatkulov, Sergei Derbenyov, his son Igor Derbenyov (who allegedly lit the fireworks) and Mukhutdinov. Also indicted were fire inspectors Dmitri Roslyakov and Natalya Prokopyeva (negligence of duty, article 293, part 3). The indictment for Zak, Yefremova and Fatkulov was reclassified from Article 219, part 3 to Article 238, part 3 ("production, storage, transportation or sale of goods, or providing a service without following safety regulations which led to death of 2 or more people", maximum sentence of 10 years). Zak was also indicted for tax evasion (article 198, part 2, maximum sentence of 3 years); that indictment can be removed if he pays back the taxes owed and penalties. Mukhutdinov was indicted for two counts of "misuse of authority" (article 285, maximum sentence of 10 years). The second count was added after the investigators found a 5,000-rubles gift certificate from one of the local alcohol shops in his office. He allegedly issued the permit to the store in question even though it did not fit the fire safety regulations. Another accused, Konstantin Mrykhin, was not in custody at the time and international arrest warrant was issued for him (he allegedly was another co-owner of the club, and was indicted on the same counts as Zak, Yefremova and Fatkulov). Mrykhin was arrested on August 31, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain  and was expected to be extradited to Russia in late September or early October 2010.
The trial for the other indicted began on September 20, 2010. 304 people who were injured and relatives of the people who died filed civil suits against the accused for a total of about 2.5 billion rubles (approximately US$83,000,000). Zak claimed he is innocent as he was only a passive investor in the club, and club affairs were managed by Titlyanov. Igor Derbenyov petitioned the court to excuse him from appearing in the courtroom due to health problems caused by the injuries he suffered in the fire, but that petition was denied after a medical examination. The trial had to be postponed several times, as the accused had to change the lawyers representing them, and one of the lawyers was hospitalized to give birth. Court was adjourned until January 25, 2011 as Zak was hospitalized and operated on (part of his large intestine had to be removed), and even though it was unclear how long Zak's recuperation will take, prosecution said it is impossible to transfer Zak's indictment into a separate case at this stage of the trial. The judge decided to continue the trial after Zak's condition was reported to be satisfactory for him to appear in the courtroom. However, later the same day Zak had to be taken to the hospital again and the hearings were postponed again. Zak was once more reported by the doctors to be fit enough to participate in the trial on 27 January, but this time Igor Derbenyov asked to have his mental health evaluated by psychiatrists as he claims he might have a mental disorder and be not guilty by reason of insanity. Derbenyov was judged mentally competent after a psychiatric evaluation. Derbenyov and Roslyakov were released on their own recognizance on March 1, leaving Zak, Fetkulov and Mukhutdinov in custody.
||This article's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. (April 2013)|
Konstantin Mrykhin was convicted of "providing services not compliant with safety requirements, committed by an organized group by prior agreement, which negligently led to deaths of two or more people" (Article 238, part 3 of the Criminal Code of Russia) on May 14, 2012 and sentenced to 6.5 years of imprisonment (maximum sentence on that charge is 10 years, but Mrykhin pleaded guilty to the charges and therefore was not subject to a full trial; the maximum sentence in that situation is automatically reduced by 1/3). He was also sentenced to paying 200,000,000 rubles (approx. 5,000,000 euros) in compensation to the victims. The sentence to Zak, Yefremova, Fetkulov, Mukhutdinov, Roslyakov, Prokopyeva, and Igor and Sergei Derbenyovs was originally scheduled to be announced on April 15, 2013. The announcement was delayed to April 22. All 8 accused were found guilty, as announced by the court on April 30, 2013. Specific sentences are yet to be announced.
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