From Dreams to Tragedy: The Fire that Shook Brazilian Football (2024) s01e02 Episode Script


[foreboding music plays]
[embers crackling]
[Benedito Ferreira] A reporter
on TV was saying,
"A large-scale fire
has completely engulfed
the Flamengo training center."
I can still hear that.
[Filipe Chrysman] We couldn't believe it.
We were all devastated when we found out
that we had lost our friends.
[Fernanda Alves] I got the news
as soon as I arrived at work for the day.
[Andréia Candido] I got in
the first taxi that stopped.
It was the longest ride of my life.
And the hardest ride.
[Fernanda] When I got on the bus,
I heard a woman next to me say,
"Oh my goodness,
a group of teenagers have died."
"There was an accident
at the Vulture's Nest."
I asked the Virgin Mary,
"Why did you let my son die?"
"You shouldn't have let him die."
[man 1] A source contacted me, saying,
"I have information
about the Vulture's Nest accident."
I stopped and said,
"Léo, this changes everything."
We have a bomb on our hands.
[man 2, in Portuguese]
Breaking news. This is just in.
A large-scale fire
is happening right now
at the Vulture's Nest,
Flamengo's training center,
in the western part of Rio de Janeiro.
[helicopter engine whirring]
FEBRUARY 8, 2019
[man 3] "Something has happened
at the Nest."
"I think a fire has broken out."
"A fire at Vulture's Nest, where
the junior players are accommodated."
That's how they first reported it.
And I couldn't believe it.
I texted my colleagues saying,
"I'm heading into the newsroom right now."
That was a really terrible day.
Because you never want
to report news like that, you know?
[woman 1, in Portuguese]
The fire started in the early morning.
The fire department was promptly called.
They took approximately
one hour to control the flames.
[woman 2] It seems
the fire was in a storage area,
and firefighters are still at the scene.
[woman 3] The training center
had no light,
so a candle may have been used.
Did that cause the explosion?
[Marília Barros, in English] The phone
rang. It was a friend from work.
She said, "Marília, is Arthur living
at the Nest?" I said, "Yes."
She said, "Mrs. Raquel was
talking about a fire at the Nest."
I said, "What?"
[crowd clamoring]
[man 4, in Portuguese]
The civil police are investigating.
[man 5] We received the information
that four employees
and four boys in the youth league
have died.
That's the information we have,
but it's all very preliminary.
I don't even know if it was the dorm.
Was it?
The club's dorms.
-[man 6] The dorms or a container?
-The dorms.
[shutters clicking]
[siren wailing]
[Lêda Pisetta, in English] I got
to my school and checked my phone.
There was a message. It was from my aunt,
in the family group chat.
It said, "Fire at Vulture's Nest."
I said, "That's strange." I pulled over
and immediately checked my phone.
And I saw it was true. "Oh my God."
And then my heart just
I froze. And then I started calling him.
No answer. Again. No answer, no answer.
I said, "He probably used
all the minutes on his plan."
"The power went out because of the fire."
[woman 4, in Portuguese]
The fire broke out in the youth dormitory.
[man 7] If the fire started in the AC unit
or with an explosion
[woman 5] It looks like the civil police
have just arrived on the scene
[woman 6] It is still difficult
to get information.
We're waiting for an official statement.
[Benedito] By the time
the firefighters arrived,
the fire was mostly extinguished.
There were pockets of fire, but no flames.
Nothing else could be done.
[in Portuguese] There are lists being
circulated, but nothing is confirmed.
I don't know.
[reporters speaking Portuguese]
[siren blaring]
[woman 7] We're trying to speak
to a young man who is a Flamengo player,
but he's very scared.
He doesn't want to talk.
[Marcos Marinho, in English] I turned on
the TV. Every channel was reporting live,
with helicopters.
I didn't know what to think.
I had an athlete inside the dorm.
[man 8, in Portuguese] The place was
completely overtaken by flames.
Despite our best efforts to get in
and look for survivors,
all we found were dead bodies.
[in English] I was
completely drained emotionally.
But, I don't know,
when I saw my friends, my teammates,
I would try to distract them
with conversation.
I could see they were all distraught
and very upset.
They were in shock. But sometimes,
I just couldn't do it, you know?
I would try to talk, but I was upset too.
I would think about what happened
and get so sad,
I wouldn't be able to say anything.
[dramatic music plays]
[man 9, in Portuguese] Secretary,
do you know who the victims are?
Yes, we have a few names.
[siren blaring]
[Fernanda, in English] I imagined
the worst. I said, "I left Wendel there."
My heart started racing.
They were saying many people had died.
They didn't have a number.
I didn't know how many had died.
-[in Portuguese] What's his name?
-Bernardo. Here.
[woman 8] Do you know his last name?
Bernardo Let me check.
[Darlei, in English] I finally got ahold
of someone at Flamengo.
"Yes, there's been an accident."
I said, "I'm trying to find out
about Bernardo."
He said, "We don't have any names yet.
But you'll hear from us soon."
I said, "Hey, I need
to know about my son."
"We'll have news soon." "All right."
And then I started telling myself,
"Don't worry. They're young."
"They're strong and smart.
I'm sure they managed to find a way out."
But what I didn't know then was
how big the fire was. How serious.
I knew nothing.
I turned around and came straight home.
I said, "Lêda, we're going to Rio."
"Whatever's happened, we're going."
When I first got there, I had no idea.
I didn't know what had actually happened.
I had no idea how it happened.
I wasn't even told when it happened.
I was just sitting out front, alone,
for a very long time, just waiting.
I was hoping for news,
for any kind of news.
But no one told me anything
about what was going on.
Eventually, they came out
and spoke to all the family members.
[in Portuguese] All the parents
to the front, please.
[man 10] Make some room for them.
-The parents
-Make some space, please.
Just a minute. We're live.
[woman 9] There is a list
with the names of the victims.
We're still awaiting confirmation.
We'll have the names
as the day progresses.
[man 11, in English] We're hearing rumors
that four of the kids
who were players in the youth league
were expected
[woman 10, in Portuguese]
players between 14 and 17 years old,
and it appears
that Flamengo staff are among the dead.
[man crying]
[woman 11] Are you family?
I only know what they're saying publicly.
They haven't officially told me anything.
I assume, since they rented us a hotel
I'm going to the hotel now.
They said forensics is investigating,
and they'll come get us later.
I assume Samuel is dead.
[man 12] Ten players
from Flamengo's youth league
died in a fire in the early morning
in a dormitory
at the club's training center.
[man 13, in English] Imagine.
A shipping container catches fire
and ten children die.
Ten young men, in what was shaping up
to be the greatest tragedy in the history
of the country's largest club.
I mean, this is completely unprecedented.
Everything is different now.
We've never covered anything like it
in this country.
[man 14, in Portuguese] We have the list
of names of the ten confirmed deaths
from this tragedy at the training center,
Flamengo's Vulture's Nest
in Vargem Grande, in the West Zone.
Arthur Vinícius.
[somber music playing]
[Marília, in English] On the way there,
I found out Arthur had died.
I didn't know when I left. And then
I collapsed.
[man 14] Pablo Henrique, 14 years old.
And also Rykelmo de Souza Viana,
from the youth league.
Christian Esmério Candido, 15 years old.
He was the goalie
for the youth league's national team.
[Andréia, in English]
They were searching for him,
they were searching for him,
they were searching for him.
They never actually said my son was dead.
And that's when
I was sure that
that I had lost my son.
[man 15, in Portuguese]
Midfielder Gedson Santos, 14 years old,
born in Itararé, São Paulo.
[woman 12] Bernardo Pisetta,
born in Santa Catarina,
joined Flamengo in 2018.
[in English] When we parked the car
at the airport,
we got a text from his grandfather.
"Bernardo's dream is over."
He saw it on TV.
My world collapsed.
That was
When a child loses their parents,
they become an orphan.
But when a parent loses their child,
what do they become?
[woman 13, in Portuguese] Jorge Eduardo,
15 years old, a midfielder.
Vitor Isaías, 14 years old, a striker.
[Marinho, in English] Vitor Isaías was
one of my athletes.
I fell apart, you know?
In a time like this
Usually, when I talk to a family,
it's to tell them a club has given them
a wonderful opportunity.
But this time, I took a boy from his home
to fulfill his dreams
and brought him back in a coffin.
[woman 13, in Portuguese] Samuel Thomas
and Áthila Paixão, both 14 years old.
We'll be back after a short break.
[Sebastião] This is not the news
I want to be sharing with you.
I wanted to report on Samuel
kicking the ball, scoring a goal,
and living his dream,
which has been interrupted.
[in English] I had an image
of him at the Nest entrance.
He kissed my hand
and said, "Bless you, Mom."
I said, "God bless you, son."
He said, "I love you,"
and I said, "I love you too."
You just become numb, you know?
The wake, the funeral
You get home and say,
"I'll never see him again."
You learn to live with the longing.
[in Portuguese] Well,
good afternoon, everyone.
I just want to say
that we are all devastated.
This certainly is
the greatest tragedy
this club has faced in the last 123 years,
with the loss of ten lives.
All of us from the club are grieving.
We are all in a state of great sorrow.
It's not easy to talk now.
Thank you, and I'm sorry.
Thank you.
[ominous music plays]
[birds screeching]
[woman 14] The Vulture's Nest,
Flamengo's training center,
will be inspected today.
The aim is to look for
potential irregularities
where ten young athletes died in a fire.
[in English] There were
plenty of skeletons in the closet.
No license, several warnings.
No one knew about that.
They kept it a secret inside the club.
[woman 15, in Portuguese]
The club's training center
was not certified by the fire department.
Still, it was operating normally.
In the plans sent to authorities,
instead of the dormitory that burned down,
there was a parking lot.
Rio City Hall ordered
the facility to be closed down in 2017,
and since then,
they have fined Flamengo 30 times.
[in English] The investigation identified
a series of interventions by authorities.
not enough to prevent the tragedy.
[Ivo] Dozens of fines, interdictions,
permits that were denied,
no official certificate
from the fire department.
The more we dug into the situation,
the more we discovered.
[Cezar] It was scary, right?
No one imagined that Flamengo
didn't have the basic documentation
required to operate a business.
So, you start asking questions.
"They didn't have the proper permits?
Were there other problems?"
[man 16, in Portuguese] City Hall
shut down the Vulture's Nest today,
Flamengo's training center.
[woman 16] Flamengo's board of directors
met at the club's headquarters
today in Gávea
and set up a crisis team
divided into two groups.
One to assist the families and victims,
the other to collect documentation
regarding operating permits
and licenses for the Vulture's Nest.
[man 17] The fact is
that a tragic accident has occurred.
It wasn't due to
a lack of investment on Flamengo's part,
or due to negligence by Flamengo.
After all, this is our greatest asset.
The group who was
sleeping in there was our future.
[suspenseful music plays]
[Filipe, in English] After the tragedy,
we went to the police station in Recreio
to give our statements.
FEBRUARY 8, 2019
The sergeant came to me and said,
"We need you to go to the station."
"I know it's been a rough night
and you've been through a lot,
but you have to come down to the station
and tell us what happened."
[Filipe] A few guys couldn't talk.
They were so upset,
they just couldn't stop crying.
I was too,
because of everything that had happened.
Initially, I couldn't say a word.
I had all the thoughts in my head,
but I couldn't speak.
[Benedito] I was trying
trying to understand
everything that had just happened.
My statement was
Well, it was complicated,
because the person who was questioning me
was asking me about specific details
that I couldn't possibly give at the time.
But I remember one of her questions.
"Were you asleep at the time
the events took place?"
I remember,
that was the first question she asked me.
I got home at, like, four in the morning.
The whole way home, I felt sick.
I took a shower and went straight to bed.
And I stayed there for several days.
[woman 17] The Vulture's Nest fire
happened on a Friday morning.
Flamengo officials sought out the
Prosecutor's Office on Saturday morning.
We then sat down
with the Flamengo senior staff
to discuss procedures
and figure out the next steps.
[Landim, in Portuguese] It's in
our interest to support the families
of all of these boys
in the best and most timely way possible.
As you all know, sometimes
legal proceedings take a long time
to reach a conclusion.
[Guedes, in English] We set up
a negotiation process with Flamengo.
Initially, they were very willing,
very accommodating.
The club officials would say,
"We're going to take care of this."
"It was a terrible tragedy."
"It's not our fault, but we want
to solve this as quickly as possible."
Right after the fire,
Flamengo gave us a lot of support.
They set us up with therapists
and provided us with accommodation.
They also paid for the cost
of flying our families in to be with us.
[Guedes] We heard
from all the officials present
that Flamengo wasn't going to attempt
to bargain with the boys' lives.
That was their stated position
at the time.
The idea was to come up with a set amount
that the club would pay
to each of the families.
We had the document drawn up.
Flamengo went through it
with their lawyers
and requested a few adjustments.
After a little back and forth,
we all agreed to the terms,
and Flamengo said they would sign it.
We went to the families
and explained the offer,
and how much each family would receive.
The families agreed.
Then, just when everything seemed
to be moving toward a resolution,
Flamengo hired a different law firm,
and they said the agreed-upon value was
too high, that it wasn't fair,
and the club was no longer willing
to negotiate under those terms.
[Darlei] They hid behind
their new lawyers.
So, of course,
the families also had to get lawyers.
It was really a shame, because
it all could have been resolved so easily.
[in Portuguese] It's in our interest
to reach an agreement with all of them.
What we can't do, honestly, is
pay a stratospheric amount
that would, let's say, greatly affect
A value completely out of proportion
with what has been discussed
or what has been decreed
by judges in similar cases in Brazil.
Flamengo won't discuss
matters being adjudicated.
I'm not here
I'm not here
to give details on the investigation.
[reporters talking]
Flamengo will meet on Monday
to address that issue.
I just learned about it today.
I don't know. I appreciate your time.
Thank you. We're done.
[man 18] Rodrigo, when will Flamengo
stop being negligent and answer?
[man 19] Are you turning your back
to the press and public opinion?
[man 20] Are you ignoring the questions?
A new meeting will take place on Monday
at the Rio de Janeiro Prosecutor's Office
with the public defender's office
and Flamengo,
this time to establish
compensation amounts
for the families
of the victims the Vulture's Nest fire.
[Darlei, in English]
The people from Flamengo got in touch,
saying we needed to go to Rio.
They even paid for our flight.
[Guedes] There was
a big mediation meeting scheduled.
When we arrived, we were told that
the president couldn't attend the meeting
because he had
another important appointment.
That alone was very disappointing
because the families fully expected
the president to be there,
to take responsibility, and,
most importantly, to issue an apology.
[Marília] That was the saddest day.
For me, it was even sadder
than my son's funeral.
It's hard to discuss the value of a life.
You can't put a price on anyone's life.
[Guedes] The president never showed up.
Instead, he sent the vice president,
along with the lawyers.
When they got there, the first thing
we asked was, "What's the new offer?"
"Why are we here?
Tell us what Flamengo is proposing."
And the head lawyer said
he didn't come with any offers
because he hadn't received any.
[Cristiano Esmério] We walked
into the room,
and their vice president
in charge of legal affairs said,
"I have to leave in 15 minutes.
I have another meeting."
That totally broke us.
It broke us. It was
completely heartless.
What could possibly be more important
than this meeting for Flamengo?
We felt completely disregarded.
I was really upset by that.
I snapped. I stood up
and slammed my fist on the table.
I was so angry. I had just lost my son,
and now Flamengo was putting us
through that and ignoring all of us.
[Guedes] The family members, who until
then had been very patient and restrained,
now expressed all their anger
and frustration,
and it turned into a messy shouting match.
Mothers were crying
and fathers were enraged.
To make matters worse,
as we left the mediation room,
the press were all gathered at the door.
It was a complete disaster in every sense.
[in Portuguese] We came here like fools.
We've been abandoned by everyone.
We don't feel embraced by anyone,
especially Flamengo.
Where was Flamengo's president?
I feel forsaken by Flamengo.
I haven't, like Cristiano said,
received a single phone call
from Flamengo.
I received no support, not even a gesture.
This child I will never hold him again.
[Guedes, in English] Any attempt
at collective settlement collapsed.
The club's new law firm
did not specialize in conciliation.
They were a crisis management firm.
Their strategy was to divide and conquer.
Flamengo started contacting
the families to negotiate individually.
[in Portuguese] It's a right
that families have.
They can hire a lawyer and sue Flamengo.
Is that what we would like? No.
But we have no control over it.
[Burlá, in English] Even before
money was being discussed,
the families were already saying,
"Flamengo doesn't care about us."
The club
should have made a gesture of good faith,
even if an official settlement hadn't
been reached yet.
They could have done something
to demonstrate some empathy.
[in Portuguese] In the beginning,
many people wanted to get on TV
by accusing Flamengo and the management.
The prosecutor's office,
the public defender's office,
everyone wanted to be seen,
to pass judgment, et cetera.
But we had
a good relationship with the families.
[Cristiano, in English] After everything
the families went through,
the loss of our sons,
the lack of information
on the day of the accident,
we finally woke up and realized
that Flamengo couldn't care less
about us or our children.
[woman 18, in Portuguese] According
to the police, it seems the fire started
because of a short circuit in an AC unit.
[woman 19] The dormitory consumed
by the flames
was in a temporary facility
called a housing container.
[Cezar, in English] I didn't know there
were still container structures
in use there.
The container itself is not the issue.
Some containers are designed
for that purpose,
to function as accommodation.
The problem is that it caught fire.
Why did it burn?
[man 21] The cause of the fire was
a faulty AC unit located in room 6.
A short circuit occurred
in the motor bearing.
The resulting friction
then caused the unit to overheat.
The sparks reached the furniture,
wardrobes, and beds.
The structure of the shipping container
accelerated the fire
and transformed it into a large-scale
blaze of great magnitude.
[man 22] You can see
there is an absence of plugs and outlets.
This is evidence of carelessness
in the use of electricity.
[Coelho] They were improvising
as the need arose.
You see?
"We need a power supply right here."
So they just ran a wire.
[Satiro] Wires were run without conduits.
Coarse splices were made
with no insulation.
A lot of workarounds.
There were some omissions
by the maintenance staff at Flamengo.
[Andréia] They were negligent.
That is a fact.
It's a fact they were negligent.
What were they thinking?
Why were the children sleeping there?
A team that was so important to me
and my family was the team that
took my son from me.
[Marília] I thought my son was safe there.
[sobs] And that's where
I lost him.
[tense music plays]
[Burlá] A source I'd been talking to
about the case contacted me and said,
"I have some interesting information
for you to take a look at."
MAY 2018
When I saw it, I said,
"This could be good."
The information seemed solid,
so I went to my boss with an idea.
We worked at UOL.
I was an editor, Léo was a reporter.
We were talking,
and he said, "Take a look."
"I think this would be really interesting
as part of our behind-the-scenes column."
I stopped and said, "Léo,
this is so much bigger than that."
"This changes everything."
"We have a bomb on our hands."
[man 23, in Portuguese]
An email exchange reveals Flamengo knew
about electrical problems
at the Vulture's Nest.
[woman 20] The possibility of fire
was previously mentioned in emails
sent by an electrical company
hired by the club
in May of 2018.
[Burlá, in English]
The article contained a series of emails
that circulated inside Flamengo,
showing they were aware of the shipping
container's precarious condition.
There was an exchange of emails between
Flamengo's administrative management,
the general manager of the Nest,
who was a man named Marcelo Helman,
and a company called CBI.
The company had been hired to assess
and make necessary electrical repairs,
which included the area where
the boys had been assigned to sleep.
[Ivo] Inspection documents,
official communications
between the company and Flamengo,
going all the way up the chain
from staff to management to the director.
Luiz Humberto Costa Tavares,
then administrative manager
of the training center,
wrote in an email,
"Good afternoon, Marcelo."
"According to Mr. Adilson's assessment
in a previous report,
the situation is urgent and very risky."
"Irregularities include a circuit box,
a post near the cafeteria,
breakers, wiring on the grass,
and an additional
circuit box behind the dormitory."
This email was sent to Marcelo Helman,
who was the center's
executive administrative director.
It goes on to say,
"The irregularities listed
will not be dealt with at this time."
"As previously announced,
the site will be demolished
and replaced with new facilities
by the end of 2018."
"I remind you that,
in the event of inspection and fines,
any allegation, however obvious,
is not necessarily illegal,
and it's up to
the supervisory body in charge
to impose a penalty or to intervene."
This explicit information is acknowledged
by the recipient of these emails.
The recipient, who is
one of the club's directors, simply says,
"Ignore it. Don't do anything."
"The structure is just temporary,
and we have plans in place to change it."
"Don't waste any time on that."
But between the time of giving
those instructions and February 8th,
a fire broke out.
[Ivo] It's clear
they were aware of issues.
In an internal communication,
they mention a possible problem
and give instructions
on how to deal with inspectors.
So then, do you respond to the inspection
with, "We will fix it"?
Or do you say, "This is acceptable"?
Their decision was, "We won't touch that.
Construction will begin soon."
"Everything will be fixed
by the end of 2018."
[Burlá] It was very clear that,
at the very least, Flamengo was negligent.
It's right there in the email exchange.
Flamengo is basically saying,
"We know this place is a trap."
[electricity humming and crackling]
[somber music plays]
[music fades]
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