3 Sentenced For Fire in Strip Club

MTAmbulance medics removing one of the bodies from the club in March 2007.
Three men were found guilty Wednesday in the deaths of 10 people in a fire at the 911 VIP strip club in Moscow in March 2007.

The Tverskoi District Court ruled that Sergei Cherkasov, 42, the former general director of KlabMarket, had violated fire regulations and found him guilty of criminal negligence causing multiple deaths.

The court sentenced Cherkasov to three years in prison, after which he will be barred from the management of any institution or organization, the Moscow City Prosecutor's Office said in a statement.

The court also convicted two bartenders at the club, Alexander Kosobutsky, 28, and Sergei Yeremenko, 26, of the same charge and of the added charge of causing major destruction of property through reckless disregard for fire safety, sentencing each to 3 1/2 years behind bars, the report said.

The blaze caused more than 2 million rubles (then about $75,000) worth of damage to public property.

The blaze that swept through the club was started when the two bartenders decided to provide a fiery accompaniment to waitresses dancing on the bar. Kosobutsky set fire to an ashtray full of alcohol on the bar and Yeremenko threw in a lighter, which then exploded.

Six men and four women were killed in the ensuing fire, and eight were taken to the hospital with burns and smoke inhalation. Many of those who died choked on toxic fumes on the club's second floor, where private booths were located.

Media reports at the time said neither the fire alarm nor extinguishers at the club were functional. The prosecutor's report to the court also said Cherkasov had failed to educate his staff about fire safety and did not try to coordinate the evacuation of the club once the fire began.

More than 17,000 people die in fires each year in Russia, a per capita death rate more than five times that of the United States. Lax enforcement of fire regulations and negligence are to blame for many of the deaths.