He added that the club was packed an estimated 1,200-1,300 people.
"I thought I was going to die there. There was nothing I could do, with the fire spreading and people screaming in front."
Standing next to the stage when the fire broke out, Rodrigo Rizzi, a first-year nursing student, watched the tragedy unfold.
"I was right there, so even though I was far from the door, at least I realized something was wrong," he said. "Others, who couldn't see the stage, never had a chance. They never saw it coming."
As he headed toward the door, the air turned dense and dark with smoke; there was no light, nothing pointing to the single exit. Rizzi found himself clawing through a panicked crowd that surged blindly toward the door.
"I was halfway across the floor, I could see the door, but the air turned black with this thick smoke," he said. "I couldn't breathe. People started to panic and run toward the door. They were falling, screaming, pulling at each other."
Witnesses said security guards who didn't know about the blaze initially blocked people from leaving without paying their bills. Brazilian bars routinely make patrons pay their entire tab at the end of the night before they're allowed to leave.
Inside the club, metal barriers meant to organize the lines of people entering and leaving became traps, corralling desperate patrons within yards of the exit. Bodies piled up against the grates, smothered and broken by the crushing mob.
About 50 of the victims were found in the club's two bathrooms, where the blinding smoke caused them to believe the doors were exits.
Martins confirmed that the group's accordion player Danilo Jacques, 28, died, while the five other band members made it out safely. Martins said he thought Jacques made it out of the building and later returned to save his accordion.
The first funeral services were held Monday for the victims, including brothers Pedro and Mercello Salle. Most of the dead were college students 18 to 21 years old, but they also included some minors. Almost all died from smoke inhalation rather than burns.
National Health Minister Alexandre Padilha cautioned that the death toll could worsen dramatically, telling news media in Santa Maria on Monday that 75 of those injured were in critical condition and could die.
Santa Maria Mayor Cezar Schirmer declared a 30-day mourning period, and Tarso Genro, the governor of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, said officials were investigating the cause of the disaster.
The blaze was the deadliest in Brazil since at least 1961, when a fire that swept through a circus killed 503 people in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro.
Sunday's fire also appeared to be the worst at a nightclub anywhere in the world since December 2000, when a welding accident reportedly set off a fire at a club in Luoyang, China, killing 309 people.