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Court in Brazil grants bail to defendants in deadly nightclub fire

By Ben Brumfield and Marilia Brocchetto, CNN
updated 10:49 AM EDT, Thu May 30, 2013
Relatives and friends of Paraguayan student Guido Britez, 21, who died in a fire at the Kiss nightclub in Brazil, carry his coffin during the funeral in Asuncion on Tuesday, January 29. More than 230 people died and more than 120 were injured early Sunday when a fire tore through the nightclub packed with university students in southern Brazil, police said. Relatives and friends of Paraguayan student Guido Britez, 21, who died in a fire at the Kiss nightclub in Brazil, carry his coffin during the funeral in Asuncion on Tuesday, January 29. More than 230 people died and more than 120 were injured early Sunday when a fire tore through the nightclub packed with university students in southern Brazil, police said.
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Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
Hundreds dead in Brazil nightclub fire
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A botched pyrotechnic show started the inferno that killed 242 in January
  • The defendants had been held in part to keep them safe from angry citizens
  • Lawyers argued that the town had calmed down and the men could go free on bail
  • A woman in the courtroom cried out when the bail announcement was made

(CNN) -- When Brazilian judges announced their decision to grant bail to the defendants in a nightclub fire that killed 242 people, a woman in the courtroom let out a yell.

Her son died when a botched pyrotechnic display set concertgoers ablaze at the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria in January.

For many loved ones attending the hearing, it felt as if those responsible for the deaths were getting off scot-free. Anger and disappointment at the decision spread Wednesday.

Adherbal Alves Ferreira also lost a family member in the blaze. He heads an association that represents the loved ones of victims.

"Our hope has gone down the drain," he told Record TV. "It's as if our children were worth nothing."

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Getting bail

The four defendants, club owners Elissandro Spohr and Mauro Hoffman, vocalist Marcelo de Jesus dos Santos, and show producer Luciano Bonilha, face charges of multiple homicides and attempted homicides.

Dos Santos' band is accused of using pyrotechnics that it knew were for outdoor use to save money, prosecutors said. The club owners are accused of allowing an overcrowded, dangerous environment that added to the deadly outcome.

Dos Santos' attorney filed a motion to revoke the arrests, saying that they had been made to help calm the sentiments of the population, a common practice in Brazil, according to a statement by the Court of Rio Grande do Sul.

Eerie sounds of cell phones amid disaster

The court agreed that "the general commotion of the community" had died down and that it no longer provided enough justification to keep the defendants behind bars.

Ferreira disagrees.

"We are doing a perfect job so far, trying to help the victims cope," he said. But now he expects emotions to erupt again in Santa Maria.

Harrowing stories emerge from nightclub's ashes

The judges also noted that the defendants had not killed the club guests intentionally.

"The court did not see in the defendants elements of cruelty, or absolute disregard for human life that are often found in other murder cases and several crimes," the statement said.

Opinion: We haven't learned from past mistakes

Fire trap

The nightclub was filled to double its legal capacity with the crowd of 2,000 people, who came to hear the band Gurizada Fandangueira play in January.

When the fire raged, the crowd broke into a stampede, and clogged the club's only exit.

The town's residents, hearing tortured screams emanating from the club, tried in vain to tear down its walls to free victims inside.

When the blaze was extinguished, rescuers found an array of charred bodies scattered throughout wreckage created by the panic of clubgoers trapped in the inferno.

Then followed more than 200 funerals. Dozens of mostly young people were laid to rest each day.

Mothers, siblings and former classmates wept and cried out for justice during town marches.

Brazil club survivor remembers the man who saved her life

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