2009 Hermosillo daycare center fire

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2009 Hermosillo daycare center fire
Location Hermosillo.png
Time 3 pm local time (2200 GMT)
Date June 5, 2009 (2009-06-05)
Location Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico
49 toddlers and infants asphyxiated from smoke inhalation
Over 40 children hospitalised with burns and smoke inhalation
Six adults hospitalised

The ABC Day Care center fire in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, took place on Friday, June 5, 2009. 29 bodies were pulled from the blaze and thirty died that day.[1] Since then, the death toll has risen as more children have died from their injuries. In all, 44 toddlers and infants have been reported killed as a result of the blaze.[2][3] Another five have not survived their injuries raising the death toll now[when?] to 49.[1] Over 40 infants and toddlers have been hospitalised with burns, and six adults.[4][5][6]


A fire department officer unofficially reported that the converted warehouse building had only one exit. A desperate citizen, Francisco Manuel Lopez Villaescusa drove his Silverado truck through the walls to gain entrance and knocked three holes into the building.[7] One mother claimed a second exit was locked and the key could not be found.[8]

An inspection of the daycare was conducted on May 26, and the center passed requirements. The warehouse had windows, however they were mounted too high, and did not provide an access to the daycare centre for rescue operations. The six employees and 142 children were also within the ratio of caregiver to child in the center as well.[9][10]

Over 142 children were being cared for at the time of the blaze according to Sonora Governor Eduardo Bours, "There were 142 children in the nursery, 35 have died, and another 41 are hospitalized."[11]

On Sunday, Sonora state Health Minister Raymundo López Vucovich said, "In the past few hours three more have died. Twelve of the 22 hospitalized children are in a dangerous condition."[2]

It was reported that the fire began in a tire warehouse next door and then spread to the child care centre. Further investigations revealed that the real source of the fire was on another warehouse, operated by the state government. Just a few minutes after, the fire caused the collapse of a roof section which fell over the children, infants and employees below. One of the first men on the scene reported that all children were unconscious or dead, and there were no children crying.[12]

Firefighters took two hours to contain the blaze which started at 3 pm (2200 GMT).[13]

"They told me that this happened in a matter of five minutes," said Hermosillo Mayor Ernesto Gándara.[14]

"According to what our people saw, there was an explosion followed immediately by flames," said Daniel Karam, the director of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS).[15] "We began to smell smoke and the alarm went off. But it was explosive and there was no chance to get more children out," said María Adriana Gasca Sandoval, a daycare aide.[16]

Burn treatment[edit]

López reported that some of the children were suffering from kidney failure due to a severe loss in body fluids caused by the burns. Others in hospital had respiratory symptoms from smoke inhalation.[17] Many of the injured are being cared for in hospitals in Guadalajara, Jalisco. One boy cannot be moved for further treatment as he has been declared brain dead.[12] Even though 15 medical specialists were specially flown in for treatment some children are being moved to the state of Jalisco which has doctors who specialize in children's burns. Two children were taken to a Shriner's burn hospital in Sacramento, California, USA, for treatment[12] "A lot of it is how deep the burn is and where it's located and how bad is the smoke inhalation," said Dr. Tina Palmieri, assistant chief of burns for the hospital, who reported that there is a 50 per cent chance of survival for one of the three year old girls who sustained burns to over 80 per cent of her body.[18][19] This girl is accompanied by one parent, her father, and arrived in California by Mexican military transport. Her mother, working in the day care, rushed through the flames to pull her and other children out of the fire and was taken to a Ciudad Obregón hospital.[18]

A young boy arrived later in Sacramento for care who will be receiving several operations for skin graft surgery beginning on Sunday June 7 said Dr. David Greenhalgh, chief of burns at the Sacramento hospital. Both of these patients are being watched for infection and are in critical condition, but able to communicate. They cannot talk because they are being treated with breathing tubes.[18][20]

The burns on some of the children are so bad authorities are having problems identifying the burn victims.[21]

Javier Alexis Pacheco, aged two was rushed to the hospital for treatment for burn injuries.[20]

Four year old Hermán Vásquez with burns on 75 per cent of his body was rushed to Chávez Hospital. However his family did not find out where he was until 6 p.m. that evening.[22]

"Unfortunately, fifteen of them are in danger of losing their lives over the next few hours," said López on Saturday.[15]


The majority of deaths occurred from smoke inhalation, however others died from the roof collapse during nap time. Camila, a three-year-old girl perished in the fire from asphyxiation.[12] María, Julio, Fátima, Carlos, Sofía and Dafne were among the 41 pre-schoolers who were mourned in several funeral ceremonies on Saturday.[23]

Two-year-old María Magdalena Millán was buried Saturday, her parents attaching a Dora the Explorer balloon to the cross marking her grave, while her mother cried out "I love you and I don't want to leave you here!"[9]

Germán León battled his injuries, but died Saturday morning, just days after his fourth birthday.[9]

The family of 2-year-old Daniel Alberto Goyzueta Cabanillas, who died of smoke inhalation, held a funeral late Saturday afternoon.[24] The family of 2-year-old Camila Fuentes Cervera also held her funeral Saturday.[20]

Grief and bereavement[edit]

Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram to Archbishop of Hermosillo José Ulises Macías Salcedo. The pope offered his condolences, "together with spiritual closeness, concern, and wishes for a speedy and total recovery of those injured in the lamentable incident....With these sentiments, the Supreme Pontiff, in these moments of sadness, imparts from the heart the comfort of an apostolic blessing, as a sign of comfort and hope in the Risen Lord."[25]

“I want to express in the name of the federal government, of all Mexicans and of me personally, our condolences to the mothers and fathers for this tragic accident,” said President Calderón.[26]

Neighbours conducted a candlelight vigil the morning of June 7 at the University of Sonora in Hermosillo.[27]

Day Care centre ownership[edit]

The ABC daycare was federally funded, but privately operated. The Social Security Institute provided a contact for operation. Two state officials have resigned, but at this time, they were not arrested. Their two wives co-owned the daycare.[1]


President Felipe Calderón has placed federal attorney general Eduardo Medina-Mora in charge of the investigation as to the cause of the fire.[5] The President visited the scene and was said to be "enormously saddened".[3] "This has been a painful tragedy for all Mexicans. I have ordered the federal prosecutor to as soon as possible carry out investigations to help us know exactly what and how it happened, and to work out corresponding responsibility," said Calderón.[12]

The cause of the fire has been determined to be a malfunctioning air conditioning unit in the neighbouring warehouse. The warehouse was not equipped with fire extinguishers, nor smoke alarms.[28][29] "The fire was caused by the overheating of an air conditioner due to continuous and prolonged use," said Attorney-General Eduardo Medina Mora. The air conditioner melted its aluminum housing and spread to license plates and paper work in the state government warehouse. The warehouse was closed and empty when the fire started.[30] It was later discovered that the warehouse fire was started intentionally.[31]

The child care fire alarms did not alert staff to the fire as they were installed below a brightly coloured tarpaulin. It is believed that smoke filled the area between the warehouse's high roof and the false ceiling created by the tarp. When the tarp cauught fire smoke and flames collapsed onto the slumbering daycare infants and instantly filled the daycare with thick smoke.[32][33] In 2005 the day care centre owner were advised to remove the tarp, widen the main entrance, and increase auxiliary fire exits and bring them up to fire regulation size. Subsequent safety inspections passed without the work being carried out, and contracts awarded for the continued operation of the centre.[32]


There were no water sprinklers which would have automatically engaged in the event of a fire. A marked emergency exit was bolted shut and one mother at the child care reported that no one was able to obtain the key. Hermosillo Fire Department Chief Martín Lugo reported that, although the facility had recently passed a safety inspection, the fire alarms for the building were not installed correctly. Parents said that though the daycare had 20 on staff, only six were on duty on Friday.[34] "We always have to be open to improvements, especially when we have a tragedy that has so moved us," said Karam, who admitted that their security requirements may need to be overhauled in light of the fact that the daycare passed safety inspection on May 26.[9] The centre was set up for pre-school children aged two to four, but Bours has reported that younger infants were being cared for in the center.

Seven state northern Sonora state finance department officials were arrested in connection with the fire for negligent homicide, with a total of fourteen under investigation.[28] "They are employees and officials with the Finance Department who have a direct responsibility for the warehouse where the fire started."[1]

The state Finance Department will file for negligence against the day care owners and the Social Security Institute will initiate a civil lawsuit. The highest official in the Social Security Institute resigned, and others have been suspended.[1]

Delia Irene Botello Amante, the last person imprisoned for the incident, was released from jail in Hermosillo on 1 January 2014.[35]


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29°2′8.3″N 110°57′14.6″W / 29.035639°N 110.954056°W / 29.035639; -110.954056Coordinates: 29°2′8.3″N 110°57′14.6″W / 29.035639°N 110.954056°W / 29.035639; -110.954056