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1973: Dozens die in resort fire
More than 30 people have died in a fire which has gutted a 2m leisure resort in the Isle of Man.

Initial reports suggest the blaze, which destroyed the seven-storey Summerland complex, began in a miniature golf garden situated on the outside of the building.

One eye-witness described "a tremendous tornado of flames" as the fire took hold.

Questions are now being asked about the suitability of the building materials used to construct the two-year-old building.

Summerland, situated at the north end of Douglas, was a 50,000 square feet complex which boasted restaurants, bars and amusement arcades. Next door in the Aquadrome were two heated swimming pools, a sauna and Turkish bath.

The three-and-a-half acre resort could accommodate up to 10,000 holidaymakers, and, at the time of the blaze on Thursday night, it is believed many hundreds were packed inside the building.

'Huge explosion'

Eye-witness and holidaymaker Mary Stewart reported hearing a huge explosion before seeing flames engulf the complex.

She said: "At first there were just a few flames coming out from the side but within minutes of us being here the whole lot just went up and the whole building was on fire.

"There was a huge explosion and then a tremendous tornado of flames. We heard all the glass breaking and people rushing out from the building screaming."

Fire crews were on the scene within minutes but the force of the blaze meant there was little they could do to save the building or those inside.

It is believed the plastic transparent panels, which made up a large proportion of the building's walls and roof, contributed to the rapid spread of the fire, and there was no sprinkler system in place.

Mr Cyril Pearson, Manx chief fire officer, said: "This was a 100ft high, uncompartmented building, therefore there were no barriers to stop the fire spreading.

"It would also appear at this stage that the building material assisted in the spread of the fire."

Fire officers, army personnel and the police are continuing to search the remains of the building for bodies.

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Watch/Listen
Burnt Summerland resort complex
An investigation is underway into the cause of the fire

Lesiure complex inferno


In Context
It was later revealed the fire was started by three boys illicitly smoking. It has never been confirmed exactly how many people died, figures vary between 50 and 53.

Following the fire, questions were raised about the safety of a new Perspex-type of material, called Oroglas, which was used in the construction of the seven-storey building.

But after a 49-day public inquiry a verdict of death by misadventure was returned.

On the 25th anniversary of the blaze relatives of the victims and survivors gathered at St George's Church in Douglas for a memorial service.

In 2004 the decision was taken to demolish the Summerland complex. Asbestos was found in the building in 1997 and plans to re-develop the site were rejected.


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