The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on December 30, 1963 · Page 23
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 23

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Monday, December 30, 1963
Page 23
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We Fought Our Way Out "It was a real terrible thing," Miller said on his return to his Kansas City home. "You read about those things and see pictures in the newsreels and newspapers, but it's awful when you're part of it. -"Our room was on what would he the second floor the mezzanine of a real high vaulted lobby. It must have been about a quarter to eight when he heard and saw all the fire equipment. "We didn't know where the fire was, we couldn't see anything because of the smoke. "After we got out, we could see the people hanging out of windows. It looked the worst from the 10th to the 12th floors. There was really a lot of smoke coming out of the windows. "We carried out everything we had. Some of the other people weren't so lucky. "We went around the corner and saw a friend from St. Louis, Buster Yates, and his son, Larry'. They had gone down a fire ladder from the floor above. They had left their clothes in their room, so I lent him some. "We finally got a cab to go to the airport. There were people eveiywhere trying to hail cabs. We saw two men waiting, who had inhaled a lot of smoke and were very sick, so we picked them up and took them to a hospital. They had been on the ninth floor. "There was the darndest smell of smoke all over. An acid smell that goes right through you." For Miller and Bournette, also of Kansas City, the Gator Bowl game was the last as officials. Both have passed the Big Eight's mandatory retirement age of 57. Miller has been a football official for 30 years and started coaching in what is now the Big Eight Conference in 1937. v . ri. A KKSCl'K IIKIJCOI'I Kf sits on Unroof of tho Roosevelt Hotel early Sunday plucking survivors to safety, while a fireman looks over the front Hotel Met All Fire Hazard Regulations JACKSONVILLE I.P The Rnnsevelt Hotel, where 21 poisons died Sunday in a fire, met all local and state regulations on fire hazards, Mayor Haydon Hums said Sunday niRht. Burns, who is commissioner The Palm Beach Post MONDAY MORNING, DEC. 30, 19fi3 PAGE 23 A Fire Is Something You Jusl Read Ahout By WIIITKY KKLI.KY Executive Sportn Kdilor, Charlotte, N.C., Observer JACKSONVILLE, API A fire disaster and the horror it brings can't happen to you. It's something you read about In a newspaper or see on television. It happened to me Sunday morning in the fire in the Roosevcl' 1 Intel. First indication that I had that something was wrong was when someone banged on our door. I thought "those damn drunks," why can't they let people sleep. The next instant, I heard a commotion in the hall outside my room (.131 1. I jumped up and opened the door and was hit in the fare with a rush of dense smoke. I turned around grabbed my wife, Dorothy, and said "let's pet out of this place, it's on fire." Alter I took several steps out of the room 1 remembered that we might need something wei m when we got on the outside. I told her to stand bhd her coat and my rain-right were she was and I ran back into the room and grabbed her coat and my raincoat. My first thought was to get to the stairs, at the other end of the hall. I knew where it was because on the previous day I wailed a long time for the elevator, got impatient, then decided to walk down. When wo got to the stairs people were already moving from other floors. One time I made a wrong turn and the folks in front of me kept hollering "come this way, come this way." There was no panic and people were helping each other. At least there was no panic in the crowd that I was In. Suddenly I saw a patch of light to our left, a door I found out later. People had already reached it and were directing others to come that way. It was a glass door dial opened onto a roof, a wing of the main building. Someone had rammed a suitcase through the glass, making a hole large enough for people to squeeze through. Once we got out on the roof we went to the edge and looked down on the street. Smoke was pouring out of the ventilators on the roof but I couldn't see any fire. In fact I never saw fire at all. Firemen got a ladder up to the spot where my wife and I were standing. At first Dot wouldn't get on It because of the police and fire departments, said a team of city fire marshals inspected the hotel within the past 10 davs and found it complied with all fire safety rules. "There is no neulionce involved in this fire in anv she's afraid of high places, especially ladders. I kept telling her she had to get on the ladder and finally she did. When we started down we had to stop to let firemen up. They were going up to try to help people still in the building. I learned later that a fireman stood below my wife and guided her down by putting each of her feet on a rung during the descent. When I got to the bottom I looked at my watch, a reporter's instinct I guess, and it was 8:15 a.m. I turned to look at my wife and discovered that she had on my coat and I was carrying hers. We then stood across the street and watched efforts to rescue other people. Smoke seemed to be pouring from a room on the ninth floor and two people were leaning out as far as they could to get air. That's the thing that horrifies you about a situation Pke that. The feeling that you are going to suffocate, or not find your way out of those smoKe-clogged halls. 4 w R JuLMi ' til i NAVY IlKLKJOl'TKIl vjii U;, ,nu : v. "I. , Vi vJW l--l ot the hotel where sheets still hang from the windows of those who tried to escape. way." the mayor said. "We know that the origin was in the ceiling of the ballroom hut the cause has not yet been determined." City and state fire marshals are working with insurance underwriters in an exhaustive investigation to find out the cause of the fire. Burns said flames were confined to the ballroom level on the me7y.anine floor with smoke rising through the building taking the score of lives. The mayor praised the Navy which sent eight helicopters to ferry guests f;om the hotel roof to ambulances waiting on a riverfront municipal parking lot a few blocks away. The Navy dispatched the helicopters from the Jacksonville Naval Air Station within 20 minutes after he called the Navy for help, the mayor said. "Tightest Spot' Fur Vet Pilot JACKSONVILLE IT) - A veteran Navy pilot called Sunday's helicopter rescues from the roof of the burning Roosevelt Hotel "the tightest spot I've ever put such a craft." Lt. I'ral King, who piloted a helicopter from the Naval Air Reserve Training Unit at Jacksonville Naval Air Station, made four trips to the roof of the hotel, bringing otf one victim each time. King's helicopter was one of eight that took part in the rescue operations. The Navy responded within minutes after an appeal for help from Mayor Haydon Burns. If fv"i f:Hv"J removes in jurctl Riiest from the roof. KANSAS CITY Ul "There were no heroics or anything. We just fought our way out of the smoke, walked down the back concrete stairs and got out of the building." Matter -of faetly, Bob Miller, a veteran Rig Eight Conference football official who worked Saturday's Gator Bowl game, told how he and fellow official George V. Bournette escaped from the burning Roosevelt Hotel in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday morning. LaSallc Fire Toll Was 61; 200 Injured CHICAGO Vfi The fire in the Roosevelt Hotel in Jacksonville, Fla., recalled Sunday the La Salle Hotel fire in Chicago, June 5, 1916, in which 61 persons died and some 200 were injured. Similar circumstances marked both fires. The La Salle fire started shortly after midnight in the vicinity of the first floor lobby. It was brought under control within Vi hours by an army of firemen and equipment. Its 1,000 rooms spread through 22 floors, were sold out, mostly to conventioneers. The hotel then was 37 years old. During subsequent investi-' gations, it was found that the fire started near a first floor cocktail lounge, spread lapid-ly through the lobby, up elevator shafts and into upper corridors. Some of the dead were found in corridors of upper floors, in crawling position, before asphyxiation Killed them. Other guests were found dead in bed, apparently ever-come in their sleep. Some guests leaped to certain death from upper story windows. A coroner's jury found that 47 of the 61 died of asphyxiation not complicated by other factors. The hotel reopened for business 13 months later, renovated at a cost of about $2 million. Some 80 damage suits were filed against the hotel corporation as a result of deaths, injuries and lost valuables in the fire. The plaintiffs sought hundreds of thousands of dollars. Nearly all of the suits were settled out of court. Winccoff Fire-Worst Of All ATLANTA 1 The fire which killed 21 persons at the Roosevelt Hotel in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday brought to mind the most frightful hotel fire in American histoiy the Wineeoff blaze in Atlanta which killed 119 persons and injured manv others Dec. 7, 1910. Men, women and children plunged screaming to their deaths on pavements below their windows in that disaster, while scores of others were flapped and burned or suffocated in upstairs rooms. At one time, a half-doen broken bodies lay at the intersection of Peachtree Street and Carnegie Way. Every piece of fire-fighting equiprr.iiit in the city was summoned. A long investiga tion followed the blaze, but the cause was not determined. In 19M, the building was remodeled and reopened as the Peachtree on Peachtree Hotel. rV ft V CLOSE-IT 1KV of the Roosevelt Hotel showing hanging from windows 4A Woman Appeared In Window, Leaped' (Editor's Note: Jim Lee of radio station WBML in .Macon, da., got the following interview by telephone with Silencer I.lorens, a Macon business man, and former staff manager of WB.MI-, who was in the Roosevelt Hotel in Jacksonville.) MACON LP "We first learned that something was wrong when chaos seemed to spread through the hotel," Spencer Llorens, of Macon, said in Jacksonville Sunday. Llorens was on the 10th floor of the 12-story Roosevelt Hotel where a fire killed more than a score of persons. "I looked out the window Hotel Fire Death List JACKSONVILLE, Fla. H'PI) A list of the dead in the Rose-velt Hotel fire Sunday: 1. R. A. Patrick, 37, 371 Law- jrence, Huntsville, Ala. j 2. Max Kahn, Jr., 3725 Cloud-jland Drive, Atlanta. I 3. Mrs. Max Kahn, Jr., same address. 4. Walter E. Dupree, North Ave., Atlanta. 603 5. William G. lando, Fla. Carpenter, Or- fi. Mrs. William G. Carpenter, Orlando, lla. 7. James Homedy, Asst. Fire Chief, Jacksonville. 8. John Hill Jr. 1213 Win-burn Drive, East Point, Ga. 9. W. H. McLemore, V'idalia, Ga. 10. Mrs. Bess Robertson, Gad-den, Ala. 11. Jim Swick. Alachua, Fla. 12. Mrs. Rcna Swick, Alachua, Fla. 13. W. W. Hildinger, Buffalo, NY. 11. J. C. Cohen, 3310 Roswell Rd Atlanta 15. Mrs. J. C. Cohen, Same addre;s. 10. Mrs. Marion F. Curry, Greensboro, N.C. 17. Murray Sherman, Jacksonville, III. ' 1S. Mrs. Murray Sherman, Jackson' ille, Fla. (resident of the hotel.) 1!). Paul Arant, Pageland. S C. 20. Ida C. Fish 110 Lexington Ave., New York. 21, Sadie Cilrin 110 Lexington Ave., New ork. Irl .I'm x 1 v tea H ill L3;X hack of the bed sheets and guests and saw flames leaping from the window below us and our room began filling with smoke," Llorens said. "My wife and I kept our door closed and at times crawled along the floor to the door, knocking and calling for help. "A few minutes after the smoke filled our room, we raised a window and looking up saw flames coming from a window above us. Suddenly a woman appeared in that window and leaped. She died instantly in the fall. "We again heard voices below us and looked down to a window almost directly beneath us where Bob Sandell, an official referee in the Gator Bowl game, was leaning from his window in an effort to find fresh air. We tied some sheets and a blanket together and lowered them to Sandell and his companion who then appeared at the window with him. I didn't know the companion's name. "The two used the sheets and blankets to protect them from the smoke. My wife and I doused clothes with water and used them as masks while we again began pounding on our door. Llorens said he and his wife were in a room toward the rear of the hotel and were not certain anyone knew there were occupants in that section of the floor. "Finally," he said, "a fireman knocked on our room door, identified himself but even then for a few moments I was afraid to open the door for fear the diaft might pull the tiames 1'ito our room. "We finally heeded his command and along with a large Dozen New York Baskelball Players Among Those Saved JACKSONVILLE (UPli - A dozen players of the Manhattan College basketball team were were rescued by firemen Sunday in the Hotel Roosevelt fire. Coach Ken Norton of the Jas pers, his wife, an assistant! coach and the team chaplain also fled from the smoke-filled hotel. None of the players were in-lured and Norton said the entire team went to a 10:00 A.M. Mass, less than two hours atler fleeing from the hotel. Firemen assisted the players out of fourth floor windows. Nor sticking their heads out to escape smoke-filled rooms. number of other occupants of the floor were led through a fire exit, ten floors down and to the street." Llorens said that at 11:30 a.m., he counted at least 27 bodies that had been taken from the building. A search was continuing for other possible victims. , r. , 12! 1 W p . ' - W.A'S, .vJf.", .Viv. ) v "' w I ; 1; "10, .y I'NIVEKSITY OF FLORIDA basketball coach Norm Sloan carries his daughter to the first aid center from the Roosevelt Hotel where lie and bis family vere staying. His wife, Jo Ann, looking worried, walks beside him. ton and his wife climbed down a ladder from their fifth floor room. Manhattan, a Catholic school located In New York City, was in Jacksonville to participate in the 13th annual Gator Bowl basketball tournament. The Jaspers lost both of their games In the tournament which Florida won. The Florida team also was staving at the Roosevelt and members of the team also escaped. "My wife Is still pretty shook up but we are all O.K. and everything appears to be all right. The boys were all anx Orlando Man Used Sheets, Saved Family EDITOR'S NOTE: An Orlando, Fla. man, C, S. Barco, 38, was among the guests who escaped from the Roosevelt Hotel Sunday. Barco, who was returning to his home in Orlando from a Christmas trip to South Carolina, lowered three of his children and his his wife to safety, then escaped himself. By C. S. BARCO As Told to I PI JACKSONVILLE, (UPI) I was partially asleep when I heard fire sirens. I didn't know what it was. When I heard the third siren, someone started beating on my door and shouted "get out." There was a fire but I couldn't see any flames. All I could see was smoke. It was pouring through the ventilation system. There was a fire escape just around the corner in the hallway. I went around the corner but there was too much smoke to get down. I went back In the room and tied the sheets together from the three beds. I saw some men on the roof (a lower level of the hotel). My youngest daughter (Tay-man, 7) was afraid to go down the sheets. She was virtually hysterical running around the room. I tied the sheet around her and lowered her down Then my other daughter (Carolyn, 12) and my son (Smitty, 11) went down. Then my wife went down the sheets and finally I tied the sheets to a bed and lowered myself. There were nif n on the roof who helped us. I feel confident going through the window saved our lives. We were told people in higher floors were told not to come down on sheets because tey didn't think tey would hold. We saw one body on the rcof. We persuadel people on the higher floors to wait until someone came for them. I'm sure thankful we were on the fifth floor. The people were screaming from the windows but after wa got out we tiled to reassure them. ious to get to Mass," Norton said. Richard Peek, 6-foot-U center for the Florida Gators, fled from the hotel clad only in a bath towel and was seen wandering around the street outside. He had wrapped his feet in towels. "We didn't wait to put on our shoes. When that smoke started pouring in, we Just got out of there as fast as we could," Peek said. Norm Sloan, coach of the Flo. rida team, reported that all of his players escaped safely from the hotel. I 1

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