New Orleans, LA Cocktail Lounge Fire, June 1973

ARSON EYED IN NEW ORLEANS FIRE

By Eric Newhouse
Associated Press Writer
New Orleans, La. (AP) -- The 29 charred bodies of victims killed in a coctail lounge fire were stacked in the city morgue today, and officials said identification was difficult because most of the bodies were burned beyond recognition.
The brief, intense fire, which swept through a Sunday night beer bust at The Up Stairs Lounge in the French Quarter, trapped most of the victims behind burglar bars.
A police official, calling the lounge a homosexual bar, said identification was made even more difficult because some of the men could have been carrying false identification.
Fifteen men, some of whom got to the fire escape and leaped to the sidewalk one story below, were injured, and six remained in serious condition today. Hospital spokesmen said they feared some would die. Because of the almost unbelievable speed of the blaze, officials said they were checking the possibility of arson. "There are hints of a fire bombing," said Chief of Detectives HENRY M. MORRIS, "but no evidence has turned up to support it. Every story we get conflicts with every other story."
He said no arrests were anticipated immediately.
One survivor said he believed somebody dashed an inflammable liquid on the stairway to the lounge and lit it.
When the fire broke out, the bar, known locally as a hangout for homosexuals, was packed. Sunday was its biggest day, featuring a 5 to 7 cocktail hour with all you could eat and drink for $2, followed by partying until the wee hours.
Coroner's assistants said they would have to check dental records to get identification for some of the charred bodies.
Some small persons managed to escape by squeezing through the burglar bars on the lounge's front windows and then leaping to the street. Others left the building by smashing a side window and climbed onto a fire escape. A few made their way to another fire escape in the rear.
The bodies of those who did not make it lay jammed like logs against the front windows, with four huddled under a charred grand piano.
Some of the injured apparently were hurt in jumping to the street.
Authorities said there was only one woman among the dead.
Fire headquarters is but three blocks away. Units were on the scene in two minutes, said Supt. WILLIAM McCROSSEN. The fire was out 18 minutes later.
ADOLPH MEDINA, 32, of San Antonio, Tex., said flames engulfed the bar in a short, panic ridden moment after fire broke out on the front stairway. He said, "I was panicked about jumping, but two guys urged me to jump and I was small enough ... Some big guy on the ground caught me, and I kept looking back but my friend never got out."
LINN QUINTON, 25, of Houston, Tex., said, "The place just went up. Everyone panicked and started running for the windows. I jumped to the window in the left corner, opened it, swung out, grabbed a pipe and slid down."
"I turned around and broke a couple of other people's falls, but there were one or two who just wouldn't jump."
QUINTON said: "The bigger people just couldn't get out."
"BILL LARSEN, a pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church, got caught in the window, and I just watched him burn. He had one arm out, and I heard him scream: 'O God! No!"
"In the next window beside him, three people burned to death while I could only watch."
The bar was at the corner of Charters and Iberville, one block off Canal Street and across the street from the back entrance to the Marriott Hotel.
Marriott security guard KENNETH MEYNARD said, "It went up real quick. Second floor, flames were already at the windows when people started jumping."
Police said the floor above the fire-gutted bar included three single-room apartments that were emply at the time.
A bar downstairs and one next door were damaged but there apparently were no injuries in them, police said.
Hundreds of persons swarmed from the busy Quarter area to watch firemen remove the bodies, lowering them one at a time with a snorkle truck.
A bartender set up a bar on the sidewalk across the street and did a brisk business with the spectators.

THE LIST OF FATALITIES:
JOE WILLIAM BAILEY
CLARENCE JOSEPH McCLOSKEY, JR.
DUANE GEORGE MITCHELL
LOUIS HORACE BROUSSARD.
MRS. WILLIE INEZ WARREN.
EDDIE HOSEA WARREN, son.
JAMES CURTIS WARREN, son.
REV. WILLIAM R. LARSON.
DR. PERRY LANE WATERS, JR.
DOUGLAS MAXWELL WILLIAMS.
LEON RICHARD MAPLES.
GEORGE STEVEN MATYI.
LARRY STRATTON.
REGINALD ADAMS, JR.
JAMES WALLS HAMBRICK.
HORACE GETCHELL.
JOSEPH HENRY ADAMS.
HERBERT DEAN COOLEY, bartender.
DAVID STUART GARY, pianist.
GUY D. ANDERSON.
LUTHER BOGGS.
DONALD WALTER DUNBAR.
JOHN THOMAS GOLDING, SR.
ADAM ROLAND FONTENOT.
GERALD HOYT GORDON.
KENNETH PAUL HARRINGTON.
GLENN RICHARD GREEN.
ROBERT LUMPKIN.
FERRIS LeBLANC.
Three Unidentified White Males.

The Abilene Reporter-News Texas 1973-06-25