The Bucharest Court of Appeal postponed for another two months ruling the final sentence in the Colectiv file.
The Bucharest Court of Appeal postponed, on Monday, for another two months, ruling the final sentence in the file of one of the big peacetime tragedies in the history of Romania - the fire at the Bucharest club Colectiv, when 65 people died and over 200 were injured. On the evening of October 30, 2015, the rock band "Goodbye to Gravity" took the stage of the Colectiv club improvised in a former disused factory to perform in front of hundreds of young people. Shortly after the concert began, the fireworks included in the band’s show lit the sponge that lined the overcrowded hall, which had just one single escape door. The fire lasted 153 seconds, enough for some spectators to die on the spot, for others to be severely affected by flames and smoke while stampeding for the exit. Some of the injured were transported for medical care abroad, others, who remained in the country, died due to burns or nosocomial infections.
The then prime minister resigned, as well as the mayor of Bucharest’s Sector 4 in which the Colectiv club was located. There were street protests under the slogan "corruption kills!", a criminal case was opened, arrests were made. At the end of a protracted trial, the court of first instance – the Bucharest Tribunal – ruled, in December 2019, sentences of up to 13 years in prison, as well as the payment of damages of over 50 million lei (the equivalent of 10 million Euros). Then the trial entered the appeal phase. At the last term, the defendants' lawyers asked for milder sentences or even acquittal, claiming that the prosecutors and judges of the Bucharest Tribunal made wrong decisions, and that anyone could be blamed for the death of the 65 people, mostly entities, not people. On the other hand, prosecutors demanded maximum, enforceable sentences for the former mayor of sector 4, Cristian Popescu Piedone, some city hall officials, the owners of the Colectiv club, firefighters, pyrotechnicians and representatives of the fireworks company hired for the pyrotechnic show that generated the tragedy.
One of the pyrotechnicians said he would not understand what he did wrong even if he had to stay behind bars for 20 years. The owners of the Colectiv club declared that they did not make any profit out of the show, but it was only their love for music that made them start the business. A mother who lost her only daughter in the fire asked for punishments multiplied by the number of victims. Another woman, whose son died, said she also felt sorry for the families of the defendants.
Liviu Popescu, a survivor of the Colectiv fire, concluded that, since 2015, nothing has changed in society: “Basically, after Colectiv, what happened? The clubs that did not have a fire permit before, are now operating on the owners’ own responsibility and, practically, the Colectiv fire can be repeated any time, unfortunately.”
The debates in the Colectiv file ended late last year, but the judges postponed the final verdict for January 3, 2022. On Monday, the eagerly awaited verdict was again postponed for March 3.(LS)