RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil—The fire that killed 10 young footballers at Flamengo’s training ground in Rio de Janeiro was caused by a spike of electricity that led to a fire in an air conditioning unit, the club’s CEO Reinaldo Belotti said on Saturday, Feb. 9.
The fire started in the early hours of Friday morning, a day after a devastating storm struck Rio and killed at least six people.
Players who died in a fire at Flamengo’s youth training ground Ninho Do Urubu.
— FootballTalentScout (@FTalentScout) 9 februari 2019
Belotti said the adverse weather conditions caused energy spikes that could have caused the fire at the Ninho do Urubu, Flamengo’s training center on the outskirts of the city.
“It was a succession of events after a catastrophic day for Rio that led to this even greater catastrophe,” Belotti told reporters.
Lack of Permits
Local media reported that the fire started in a dorm where youth soccer players sleep. The fire official said that could not be confirmed.
One of the 13 young players to escape the blaze had previously said he fled the building after waking up and seeing his air conditioning unit on fire. Three teenagers were taken to hospital with injuries, one of them in serious condition.
— Paparazzo RubroNegro (@PaparazzoRN) February 8, 2019
Belotti did not take questions but said a reported lack of permits for the building was not a factor in the accident.
The Rio de Janeiro’s mayor’s office said in the hours after the blaze that the dormitory was built on an area registered as a car park. The city had warned Flamengo “almost 30 times” to close the lodging down, it said.
Belotti said there was no connection between the lack of permits and the fire.
‘A Tragic Accident’
“This area was well known to everyone,” he said. It was comfortable and adequate. We were proud of it.”
“The truth is that it was a tragic accident. It was not because of a lack of investment by Flamengo, it was not because Flamengo did not take care.”
All 10 of the dead were aged between 14 and 16 and either played for the club or were having trials there, Brazil’s Globo website reported.
Flamengo have not revealed information about the players.
The team posted on its Twitter account: “Flamengo is in mourning.”
— Flamengo (@Flamengo) 8 februari 2019
The dream of many youths in Latin America’s largest nation, winner of five World Cup titles, is to make it into the ranks of professional soccer. The development leagues identify promising players at a young age, working with them as they grow through their teenage years.
The best of those eventually play for Flamengo and several other teams across Brazil.
As news of the fire broke, several teams and players expressed their condolences on Twitter.
“We are extremely sad and shaken by the news of the fire,” tweeted Chapeco, a team in southern Brazil that lost 22 players in a plane crash in 2016.
Estamos muito tristes e abalados com a notícia do incêndio que atingiu o Ninho do Urubu, deixando inúmeras vítimas.
Externamos nosso desejo de força aos irmãos do @Flamengo e a todos os familiares dos atingidos. Nossos pensamentos e orações estão com vocês. pic.twitter.com/Sb4Lpq5XvK
— Chapecoense (@ChapecoenseReal) February 8, 2019
Jefferson Rodrigues, who runs a small inn near the club, said he had reached a 15-year-old player he had befriended.
“I am very happy. I just spoke to Caix Suarez and he is alive,” said Rodrigues, adding that the youth told him he ran when he saw the flames in the morning. “He lost his phone, and all of his things, but the important thing is he is alive.”
By Andrew Downie, Peter Prengaman and Marcelo Sousa Da Silva. The Associated Press contributed to this report.