Mexico Casino Fire That Left 52 Dead Unresolved Decade Later

Posted on: August 25, 2021, 01:01h. 

Last updated on: August 25, 2021, 01:32h.

Those responsible for the Mexico casino fire on Aug. 25, 2011, that killed 52 people largely remain free a decade later.

Mexico casino fire Los Zetas
Charred slot machines are next to a firefighter as he inspects the damage at Casino Royale in Mexico following the August 25, 2011 fire that killed 52 people. A decade later, no one has faced charges for the deliberate blaze. (Image: AP)

The incident occurred ten years ago today at around 3:50 pm local time in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, a state in Mexico’s northeast. A dozen members of the Los Zetas criminal syndicate stormed Casino Royale. The heavily armed perpetrators doused the gaming floor with gasoline and ignited a massive fire with a grenade that trapped guests and employees inside.

A total of 52 people died, most by inhaling toxic fumes. Casino Royale’s workforce was dominated by women, resulting in 45 of the 52 victims being female. One of the casualties was a pregnant woman in her seventh month.

No person has been charged for his or her direct involvement in the arson.

Little Hope of Action

The Associated Press chatted this week with survivor Samara Pérez, who lost her 18-year-old son in the attack. Perez has served as the victims’ quasi-spokesperson in the decade since the horrific event.

I heard a commotion. I turned around and I saw a man hit a woman with a gun,” Pérez recalled. “It didn’t last long. We didn’t know it was gasoline until the smoke started.

“I started to look for my son. I couldn’t find him. The chaos broke out immediately. It wasn’t until many hours later that I found out my son had died,” she explained.

Law enforcement detained 17 suspects in the days following, but none were charged for being involved in the fire. Instead, only five were charged for carrying illegal firearms. The 12 others were set free.

We have never seen real justice,” Pérez declared. She added that pleas to find justice made to Nuevo Leon Gov. Jamie Rodriguez Calderon and Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have fallen on deaf ears.

State law officials maintain that there is an active investigation.

Police say the attack by the Los Zetas gang was in response to Casino Royale’s ownership failing to pay the criminal syndicate for protection. The Los Zetas were once Mexico’s largest and most expansive drug cartel, but have since become fragmented.

Short History of Casino Fires

The 2011 Casino Royale fire is one of the deadliest blazes to engulf a casino property in world history. The deadliest, however, occurred in Las Vegas more than four decades ago.

On November 21, 1980, MGM Grand (today Bally’s Las Vegas) on the Las Vegas Strip accidentally ignited when a refrigerator pastry display case on the ground four caught fire. Smoke traveled through the hotel via air ducts, and the toxic fumes resulted in 85 deaths.

The tragedy resulted in numerous improvements to safety guidelines and codes in Nevada and elsewhere across the US.

More recently, Resorts World Manila in the Philippines was the site of a fire that left 37 people dead. But unlike MGM Grand, it was no accident, as a disgruntled gunman manic from his gambling losses entered the resort and set it on fire.