Remember the Ozone Disco fire?

Darryl Esguerra
PUBLISHED April 18, 2018 10:58 am

(Inside Manila) What was supposed to be a night of festivity for teenagers and young adults celebrating their graduations who went to Ozone Disco in Timog Ave., Quezon City 22 years ago, turned out to be one of the worst fire incidents the world have ever seen.



The Manila Times Banner


On March 18, 1996, a four-hour fire shattered the Ozone Disco Club, killing at least 160 people and injuring 100 others, many of them suffered second and third-degree burns all over their body. It is known as the worst fire incident in Philippine history, and among the 10 worst nightclub fires in the world.


The fire started at the disc jockey’s booth and immediately swamped the whole place. Investigators described Ozone Disco Club as a “firetrap” due to its lack of emergency exits, fire extinguishers and warning devices.


What made the situation even worse is the number of attendees. There were more than 300 people there, when the room could only accommodate about a hundred. A state made possible by Ozone Disco Club’s 50% discount promo for the guests of that Monday night.



Disco Inferno. Photo: AFP


Many of the bodies were discovered along the corridor leading to the only exit, piled up waist-high. Quezon City officials were quoted as saying that the club's emergency exit was blocked by a new building next door, and that there was no proper fire exit installed. It was also reported that the exit had been locked from the outside by the club's security guards, who had thought that a riot had taken place.


According to an Inquirer.net report, six people involved with Westwood Entertainment were tried before the courts for criminal charges of "reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and multiple serious injuries".


On March 16, 2001, President of Westwood Entertainment, Hermilo Ocampo, and the corporation's treasurer, Ramon Ng, were found guilty by a Quezon City trial court and sentenced to a four-year prison term, and fined Php 25 million each. They and their co-accused (who were acquitted) were also ordered to indemnify the families of the deceased Php 150,000 and Php 100,000 to the injured. The trial court concluded that Ocampo and Ng failed to provide fire exits and sprinklers inside the establishment, that the fire extinguishers they placed were defective, and that the lone exit was through a small door that swung inward and did not meet the standard set by the building code.



Photo: AFP


On November 2014, 18 years after the tragedy, seven officials of the Quezon City government were found guilty under the anti-graft and corrupt practices law. They were held liable for negligence in connection with the approval of the building permit and issuance of certificates of occupancy for the company which owned Ozone. They were sentenced to 6-10 years of jail and were barred from holding public office.


A week before the 19th anniversary of the tragedy, the Ozone Disco building was demolished. The site hasn’t been used for commercial purposes since the tragedy until a branch of food chain GoodAh!!!, co-owned by television host Boy Abunda, stood in the hollowed spot that erased the bitter atmosphere that engulfed the area. But for the tragedy survivors, the memories – the physical and emotional pains that took years to heal – will always be remembered.

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