Ultratumba: the black metal and gothic rock festival that ended in one of the worst tragedies in the history of Quito

The death toll from the disaster was 19 dead and at least 24 injured, including six people who died in various hospitals. (Photo: Pablo Lasso)

On Pedro Vicente Maldonado Avenue, the main artery in the south of Quito, some were in a state of abandonment. factories and warehouses for industrial use that, with the growth of the population, were reused for different purposes. For example, the teams of an electrical material company, located on Quimiag Street, were assigned to set up a complex for the sale of artisanal clothing, which is now known as the Andean Wholesale and Business Shopping Center.

There, on Av. Maldonado, was a storage shed for beer, other beverages and even cars. The infrastructure, walls, and roofs were made of metallic materials, such as corrugated steel, brass, and zinc.

In 2006, municipal permits were granted to change the land use of a storage area to convert it into a bar, a disco restaurant, a cafeteria, a concert café and other entertainment purposes. Known as the Factory Dance industry, the club began operations in April 2007, turning the old storage warehouse into a massive meeting place for people.

With an area of ​​approximately 800 square meters, the building was barely remodeled on the outside. The interior design never met the minimum safety and emergency standards. Along with other problems, the premises were lined with highly flammable combustible materials, such as acoustic foam made of sponge, intended to isolate sounds from the premises. The club had only two doors: a 3-meter-wide entrance door and a small 1.5-meter-wide emergency exit located near the toilets.

At eleven o’clock in the morning of April 19, 2008, the music of the melodic black metal and gothic rock festival baptized as afterlife. Bands of the genre such as Zelestial, Vendimia, Empírica and Lamento participated. More than 300 people packed the place.

Poster for the 2008 Ultratumba festival.
Poster for the 2008 Ultratumba festival.

After the first presentation, at 1:30 p.m., Empírica entered the scene. Evelyn Jimenezwho was then 22 years old, leader and vocalist of the group, in an interview immediately after the festival, told the newspaper The universe that “the concert was called Ultratumba and the outstanding bands gave us a printed plastic with a coffin as a prize. Nothing could be more real, it seemed that everything was announced”.

Around 4:00 p.m., the Vendimia band kicked off with a theatrical performance show that included juggling with pyrotechnic lights. After about thirty minutes, one of the musicians tossed a flare into the air that ended up on a metal beam in the ceiling, which sank into the sponges and soon caught fire, setting the nightclub on fire.

According to the testimony of some survivors, the attendees clamored for the show to stop, because the roof of the place was on fire and the melted sponges fell like rain of fire on the attendees, but the screams were confused with the execution of the instruments, the amplification and euphoria of the concert.

Uproar and despair flooded the place with tears. The attendees ran to the only exit, saturating everyone’s escape. The emergency exit was inexplicably sealed with padlocks to prevent anyone from entering without paying.

The room was filled with a suffocating and impenetrable blackish smoke that impeded the visibility of the auditorium and stunned everyone. The first to leave tried to stone the wall of the nightclub to open an alternate exit, but all these efforts were in vain.

In 2008 a concert turned into a tragedy in Quito when a flare set fire to the shed where it was held.

The stampede left 8 people collapsed already lifeless on the ground. Among the deceased are members of the gothic rock group Zelestial, who were due to perform after Vendimia. They were the spouses Paola Flachier and Pablo Bernal, Mauricio Machado, Claudia Noboa and Andrés Rivadeneira. Zelestial became the emblem of the Factory discotheque tragedy that that same day was going to receive a tribute as a precursor band of the Ecuadorian gothic style.

The death toll from the disaster was 19 dead and at least 24 injured, including six people who died in various hospitals from the Andean capital after being taken to an emergency.

On June 26, 2016, a space called Diversity Park at the scene of the tragedy. In addition to the green spaces, the park has a memorial in honor of the fatal victims of the Factory, areas and squares to practice skateboarding and martial arts, and an agora to celebrate cultural and artistic activities. Parents and relatives of the victims attended the event. Today, after 12 years of waiting, the case remains unpunished.

The Prosecutor charged with involuntary manslaughter Paul Jauregui Y Ricardo Loornightclub owners, to Patricia Cajo Y Edwin Menaorganizers of the concert, already Gabriel Riera Izurieta of the band Vendimia, who is the musician who launches the flare according to a video included in the judicial process.

According to the administrative summary, opened against the officials and authorities that granted permission for the operation of the discotheque, no one was found responsible.. According to the Fire Department, the changes in the disco were made after receiving the permits.

The Factory nightclub worked in a shed.  On the day of the festival, the emergency door was sealed with padlocks.
The Factory nightclub worked in a shed. On the day of the festival, the emergency door was sealed with padlocks.

In November 2009, the court handed down a conviction for involuntary manslaughter in the category of authors against Gabriel Riera and Patricia Cajo, of six and two months in prison, respectively, but it was appealed and dismissed in 2012.

According to the text of the judicial resolution of appeal “it is declared that Mr. Gabriel Arturo Riera Izurieta and Mrs. Margarita Patricia Cajo Godoy, are responsible in the degree of perpetrators of the crime of involuntary manslaughter due to recklessness since in the circumstances of the act they were reasonably required not to use fire, nor lock the door of the place”.

The tragedy recalls the fire in Cro-Magnon Republic on December 30, 2004, an establishment in the Once neighborhood of the city of Buenos Aires, during a recital by the rock band Callejeros. ANDThis sinister caused the worst world tragedy in the history of rock and one of the greatest unnatural tragedies in Argentina that left a balance of 194 dead and at least 1,432 injured.

In a communication sent to Quito by the relatives and friends of those who died in the Cromañón tragedy, the Argentine relatives express their solidarity with the Ecuadorian relatives. The text says: “From Buenos Aires, the relatives, survivors and friends of the victims of Cromañón send a fraternal and supportive hug to the victims and their families.”

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