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article imageRomanians mourn nightclub fire heroes who died giving 'lesson in love'

By Mihaela Rodina (AFP)     Nov 3, 2015 in World

Romanians on Tuesday paid tribute to two men who sacrificed their lives to save several youngsters trapped in a burning Bucharest nightclub, hailing them as heroes who gave the country a lesson "in life and love."

The weekend blaze which killed 32 people and injured nearly 200 would have been deadlier had Claudiu Petre, a physicist by training, and drummer Adrian Rugina not been at the Colectiv disco when an illegal pyrotechnics display went horribly awry.

"Claudiu Petre was a really great guy, intelligent and a bon vivant," Marius, a childhood friend said, fighting back tears.

"He knew what toxic fumes could do and yet he chose to ignore the danger to return twice to the club to bring out people," Marius told AFP.

The bearded 36-year-old had studied physics and worked at the prestigious Bucharest university before taking up a job in a private company.

Witnesses said a fireworks display triggered the blaze at the Colectiv, located in a former shoe factory. The inferno sparked a deadly stampede as terrified revellers scrambled to get out of the basement club in central Bucharest.

Petre did not survive his second incursion into the burning disco. He died in an ambulance en route to hospital as a result of the toxic fumes he had inhaled.

People light candles to commemorate the victims outside the nightclub Colectiv in Bucharest on Octob...
People light candles to commemorate the victims outside the nightclub Colectiv in Bucharest on October 31, 2015, a day after a mortal fire
Daniel Mihailescu, AFP/File

"I did everything I could to revive him but did not succeed," said Lucian Horhota, a doctor.

"Later I realised that the state he was in was due to the fact that he returned to the club twice in a heroic manner to save a young girl," Horhota said.

"Claudiu was like that, ever ready to help people," Marius said.

The fire also killed two guitarists with local hard rock group Goodbye to Gravity which was the headline act that evening. Three other group members were seriously injured.

The audience, estimated at between 300 and 500, comprised several budding musicians who had come to see the band, which had just launched its latest CD.

- 'A lesson in life and love' -

Adrian Rugina, a 38-year-old drummer with a local folk metal band was one of them.

A few hours earlier he had rallied his friends to come to the Colectiv for a "must-see" concert.

Like Petre, he escaped the flames but succumbed to his injuries after diving back inside the building several times to ferry the injured to safety.

Emergency service and police forces collect evidence near a club in Bucharest October 31  2015
Emergency service and police forces collect evidence near a club in Bucharest October 31, 2015
Andrei Pungovschi, AFP/File

"He is one of the heroes of Colectiv," said Sore Mihalache, a popular young singer.

"These two young men returned to the burning nightclub twice to save their loved ones. I don't know if I could have done it even once," Ioan Florin, an Orthodox priest, wrote in his blog.

"Claudiu and Adrian have given us a lesson in life and love," he said. "I bow to their sacrifice."

His words were in stark contrast to the hard line taken by elders in the Orthodox church who criticised the youngsters for listening to "Satanist" music at the concert held on Halloween eve.

The accusations sparked a backlash against ecclesiastical authorities, especially against Patriarch Daniel, head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, who has maintained a studied silence on the tragedy.

The patriarch did however attend a mass held in memory of Claudiu Petre on Tuesday. A day earlier both Petre and Rugina were posthumously decorated by President Klaus Iohannis for "their courage and altruism and for saving lives at the cost of supreme sacrifice."

"Their time is not over as heroes never die," Iohannis said.

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