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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 February, 2003, 14:56 GMT
'People stood and watched'
Chaplain comforts woman outside the club
Some 200 people were at the concert
Witnesses to the blaze which killed or injured scores of people at a Rhode Island rock club said that many inside at first thought the fire was part of the controlled pyrotechnics on stage.

"We just thought it was all part of the act and it wasn't until we saw this tremendous amount of smoke coming very rapidly across the ceiling that we had to get out of there," said club-goer John Schmidt.

A reporter, Brian Butler, described how people's defences were down:

A lot of people have burns to the hands - we suspect they were trying to crawl out on their hands and knees
Selim Suner

"The flame... just went up the ceiling and people stood and watched it. Some people were already trying to leave and others were just sitting there going 'Yeah that's great!'"

"I remember that statement because I was like, 'This is not great, this is time to leave," said Mr Butler, who, coincidentally, was at the club to report on safety measures after this week's stampede tragedy at a Chicago club.

Another witness said sparks from the pyrotechnics display appeared to have started the blaze:

"Sort of like a spark machine, kind of like a pyrotechnics machine, and it shot off, to do like sort of a firecracker-like image-type thing but it caught fire onto the foam padding that lines the walls, mainly I guess in the back of the stage, and it caught fire and it just took very quickly."

Burnt and trampled

West Warwick Fire Chief Charles Hall said that The Station club had been engulfed in flame within three minutes and, in the panic, people had neglected to use the fire exits, creating a bottleneck at the main entrance where some suffocated.

"They tried to go out the same way they came in. That was the problem," he said. "They didn't use the other three fire exits."

Most of the victims had suffered burns but some had been trampled in the stampede to get out, said Dr Selim Suner at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, which admitted 60 injured people.

"There were many patients who are in critical condition with severe injuries," he said.

"Most injuries are burns, burns to the face, the body. A lot of people have burns to the hands. We suspect they were trying to crawl out on their hands and knees... Some of them did have injuries consistent with trampling."



Dozens die in US club fire
21 Feb 03 |  Americas
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21 Feb 03 |  Photo Gallery
Chicago club owners face charges
18 Feb 03 |  Americas

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