‘They locked themselves in,’ says man who lost 5 relatives in Kemerovo blaze
Some victims of the Kemerovo mall fire might have locked themselves in a cinema hall, judging it was better to wait for help than brave smoke-filled corridors with children, says a man who lost five family members in the tragedy.
In a video posted on the Russian social network site VK.com (VKontkate), Igor Vostrikov, who lost his three children, wife and sister in the blaze, describes the CCTV footage investigators showed some relatives. He says cameras facing the entrance to the cinema revealed that the doors weren’t locked, contradicting previous reports that the doors of one cinema hall where dozens of children were watching a cartoon were shut, dooming everyone inside.
“The people were all running out and only our bunch remained. It was a kids’ cartoon, with children… they hesitated,” he said in the video, holding back tears. He showed a picture of his family members who were taken away from him: a seven-year-old girl and boys aged five and two, as well as his wife and sister.
“When they got to the exit the smoke was so thick in the corridor, absolutely impenetrable. Then a man made a decision to lock the doors, plug all the fissures and wait to for the rescuers to arrive. But, as you know, the rescuers never came,” he said.
Vostrikov is angry at the authorities, especially over the way firefighters handled the blaze. He accuses them of being sluggish and trying to put out a massive fire with “just two tiny water flows.”
“The helicopters also weren’t employed. The fire could’ve been extinguished. Yes, the people would still not have been saved because they suffocated there. But, at least, we would’ve received our loved ones and could’ve buried them,” he said.
“But now we have to wait for three weeks [for DNA testing] because they were brunt so badly that they just can’t be identified. In some cases, there aren’t even whole bodies, but only fragments,” Vostrikov said.
A high-ranking Kemerovo firefighting service official, Andrey Bursin, said the fire brigades arrived on site four minutes after receiving the call. There were no administration representatives or security guards at the mall, despite it being their obligation to inform rescuers of the placers where people could still remain in the building, he said. “None of the fire protection systems responded in the building… all of the evacuation exits were locked," Bursin said.
Sixty-four people lost their lives in the fire at the Wild Cherry mall on March 25. There were many children among the victims as the fire source was on the upper floor, which hosted a cinema and children’s play areas. Three people involved with the mall have been arrested in connection with the case.
The investigators said the shopping mall had a faulty fire alarm and was riddled with other violations. A short circuit and arson are currently viewed as the most probable causes for the tragedy. So far only 27 victims of the fire have been identified, with the first funerals taking place on Wednesday, which was also declared a day of mourning in Russia.