Timog Avenue in Quezon City is the heart of the cities entertainment precinct. Situated near the 11th World Scout Jamboree Memorial Rotonda, was the popular Ozone Disco which was opened in 1991 by Segio Orgaoow.
The disco – operated under the management of the Westwood Entertainment Company – was opened inside a building which had previously housed a jazz club named “Birdland”.
Disaster strikes inside Ozone Disco
The evening of March 18, 1996, was a particularly busy evening for the club. There were an estimated 350 patrons along with 40 club employees inside Ozone Disco. This was despite the club only being suitable for approximately 100 patrons; as well as having only been formally approved for a maximum of 35 persons.
The majority of guests that evening were high school and college students celebrating the end of their school year.
Shortly before midnight witnesses reported seeing sparks flying inside the DJs booth. This was soon followed by smoke; though most guests assumed it was a part of the clubs special effects.
“It was starting to get bigger,” she says. “People were starting to go out. But I noticed that a lot of other people didn’t realize that something was wrong. They were just there standing or dancing.
Shortly after the smoke began pouring from the DJ booth the electrical systems within the club shut down. A fire soon broke out, spreading rapidly across the ceiling.
It wasn’t long before the fire had engulfed the whole room. The guests began pushing their way towards the door. Though the harder they pushed, the harder it was to exit the building as the doors would only open inwards.
After the 4-hour long blaze ended, investigators found the bodies of victims piled down the corridor leading to the exit. The final death count was placed between 160 and 162 victims, the majority of victims being young adults.
Aftermath of the Ozone Disco blaze
Immediately after the blaze the Ozone Disco was described as a firetrap. The clubs emergency exit had been blocked after a building had been constructed next door; meaning the building had no proper fire exit installed.
It was also found that guards had locked the front exit to the club. They had assumed that a riot had broken out inside the venue.
Six individuals involved with Westwood Entertainment faced criminal charges after the incident.
The 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 25 million pesos each.
The courts also ordered them to repay families of the deceased 150,000 pesos as well as 100,000 pesos to the those injured during the event.
Hermilo Ocampo, and Ramon Ng were found guilty due to their negligence in meeting standards set by the building code. They had failed to provide sprinklers inside the establishment, the fire extinguishers they had put in place were found to be defective.
The lone exit which had trapped the guests due to opening inwards also did not meet the standards of the building code. A former employee actually claimed that the inward swinging doors were put in place due to it being good Feng Shui.
A week before the 19th anniversary of the tragedy, the building which housed the Ozone Disco was demolished. All that remains is the memories left with the few survivors of that devastating evening.