SAO PAULO, Brazil – A stadium where seven people died when stands collapsed was recently criticized as the worst of Brazil's big soccer venues, and an official said Monday that past renovations did not deal with its structural integrity.
The victims fell 49 feet through a 10-foot wide hole in the concrete stands of the Fonte Nova stadium in the coastal city of Salvador, Bahia state's secretary of sports, Nilton Vasconcelos, told the official Agencia Brasil news agency.
Vasconcelos said government officials didn't know of any structural problems ahead of Sunday night's accident, which also severely injured several people, but he said past renovations didn't address the structural integrity the stadium.
Fonte Nova, however, was called the worst of 29 major Brazilian soccer stadiums in a survey released this month by a Brazilian association of engineers and architects. It said the stadium was unsafe and that its stands were of particular concern.
The accident happened as the game ended, when fans of the Bahia soccer team went into a wild celebration, storming the field because their team managed a goalless draw with Vila Nova, securing Bahia a place in the nation's second division.
Fans were jumping up and down in glee when the hole opened in the concrete floor of the stand and the victims fell several stories, landing on pavement.
About 60,000 people were at the stadium for the game, and many didn't realize that the section of bleachers had given way as they invaded the field in celebration.
The stadium was built in 1951, and the stadium survey released Nov. 1 by Brazil's Sinaeco association of architects and engineers said Fonte Nova's stands were "in ruins."
The report included pictures of crumbling support beams under the stands, and characterized Fonte Nova overall as being in a "pitiful state, (with) no comfort or security for users."
The survey was conducted because Latin America's largest nation will host the 2014 World Cup, and the association wanted to give authorities an idea of the conditions of Brazil's major sports stadiums.
Salvador — a major Brazilian tourism destination — would almost certainly get some of the games. But Brazil did not include Fonte Nova as a possible venue in its preliminary list of 18 stadiums submitted to FIFA, soccer's governing body.
Instead, Brazil proposed building a new stadium for Salvador in a different location by 2011.
Brazil, which has won a record five World Cups, was awarded the right last month to host the 2014 tournament by FIFA. Latin America's largest country hosted the competition once before, in 1950.
The state governor of Bahia state, Jacques Wagner, ordered the Fonte Nova stadium closed while authorities investigate the cause of the accident.