Las Vegas, NV MGM Grand Hotel Fire, Nov 1980
85 DEAD IN LAS VEGAS FIRE.
HELICOPTERS RESCUE 1,000 HOTEL GUESTS.
Las Vegas, Nev. (UPI) -- A flash fire erupted in the giant MGM Grand Hotel Friday, killing more that 85 people and forcing more than 1,000 guests to flee to the roof for rescue by helicopter.
Firemen said 85 bodies were recovered but the search of the ruined hotel and casino would continue through the night.
The blaze broke out in the kitchen, roared through the casino's flammable trappings and sent thick, mushrooming smoke throughout the 26-story tower.
Most of the dead, trapped in their rooms or the corridors, died of smoke inhalation. At least 10 were burned to death by flames that leaped through the casino and three were known to have fallen to their deaths.
Many of those found in their rooms died from smoke that poured in through windows they had broken to get fresh air.
A dozen helicopters, seven of them from nearby Nellis Air Force Base, braved the heavy smoke to run a rescue shuttle to the roof high above the Las Vegas Strip.
A chef apparently sounded the first alarm about 7:15 a.m., running from the kitchen, shouting, "Fire! Fire!" Investigators said it was believed he was in charge of the kitchen at the time. He has not been found.
Hotel guests said they did not hear any fire alarms, and Fire Chief ROY PARRISH told a news conference the amplifiers in the basement alarm system were apparently burned before they could be activated. "We think what happened is speakers .... were short-circuited," PARRISH added.
BERNARD ROTHKOPF, president of the hotel, said, "To the best of our knowledge, all safety factors were operational at the time of the fire." He could not estimate the damage, but firemen said it would reach into the millions of dollars.
The hotel was a throwback to the grand hotels of Europe which catered to the heads of state and the very rich in the pre-World War I era.
It was vaguely connected with the old MGM movie, "Grand Hotel," which starred Gretta Garbo, Wallace Beery, Joan Crawford and John Barrymore.
More than 300 people were treated for smoke inhalation and cuts from broken glass from windows broken by guests in a desperate effort to breath for fresh air.
A construction worker, on a hotel expansion project, pulled guests from their windows and lowered them to safety on his scaffold. He prevented on panicked guest from leaping to his death.
Firemen, wearing air masks, led guests in single file through the smoke-filled corridors.
Chief PARRISH said the blaze, one of the worst hotel fires in history, started in a basement kitchen area that supplies six hotel restaurants, burst through the ceiling into a construction area and then into the casino itself.
"The whole thing was unreal," said CATHY GOETZ, 20, a Kentucky college student who escaped her 12th floor room on an outside scaffold.
The smoke was so thick in the corridors of the hotel that the guests found it nearly impossible to find their way. The fire escape stairwells, when doors were opened by guests seeking a way out, became choked with smoke and were useless for escape.
"I opened the door and people were shouting, 'What should we do?' What should we do?'" said KEITH A BEVERTON of Woodland Hills, Calif. "It was death, absolute death in there. I closed the door and the air in my room was so thick that I was having trouble breathing." The blaze in the 2,300-room hotel swept through a one-story casino showroom wing, fed by the posh draperies, flocked wallpaper and carpeting which furnished the casino area. The fire burned for three hours before it was controlled.
"The crafty, unusual feature of this fire is that the smoke did not come into the hotel rooms through the doors," said Coroner DR. OTTO RAVENHOLL. "The people broke their windows trying to get fresh air and the smoke came in from below."
President-elect Ronald Reagan, flying from Washington to California, told reporters, "It is shocking. You can't image a hotel that modern ... this could happen to." Reagan said he once stayed on the top floor of the hotel.
Many panicked hotel guests broke in their room windows for fresh air, but found themselves trapped because the suffocating smoke poured into their rooms.
Some guests charged that there was no fire alarm and that most of the rooms had no sprinklers. A helicopter with a loudspeaker circled the building, warning guests to go to the roof.
Huge Air Force helicopters hovered over the roof, using ropes to lift evacuees, many of whom fled in their night clothes.
MICHAEL GAUGHAN, owner of the nextdoor Barbary Coast Casino, closed down his gambling operation, then opened the casino to evacuees.
"There was shock, panic and a lot of smoke inhalation victims," he said.
Hotel officals said there were 4,500 to 5,000 guests registered in the hotel.
One of the first fire officials on the scene, Capt. ALLAN STUMP, said the fire was extremely intense at the front door and under the large entrance canopy.
"Fire was lapping the canopy all the way to the front," he said. The total spread of the fire through the entrance area, he said, led him to believe a fireball rushed through the door splattering the portico with flames.
STUMP said he witnessed the fatal fall of a woman from the hotel. "I think she was climbing down a rope and fell." He said she dropped from about the eighth floor.
Fire Capt. RALPH DINSMAN said the hotel's indoor stairwell "creates its own atmosphere and acts as a chimney." As soon as its doors are opened, the draft sucks the fire and smoke directly into the stairwell, he said.
DINSMAN said newer building codes recommend against that kind of fire escape.
He also said fire codes at the time the MGM Grand was built, in the early 1970s, did not require sprinkler systems on every floor at the time.
DINSMAN said the plush furnishings in the casino area contributed to the quick spread of the fire. He said arson was not considered likely.
Fire Chief ROY PARRISH said it probably would take a year before the hotel could be fully reopened.
The Post-Standard Syracuse New York 1980-11-22
List of Fatalities of the MGM Hotel Grand Fire
JOSE LUIS MATA ALVAREZ.
KAREN ANDREWS, 36, Indiana.
DAVID ASHER, 36, Indiana.
JOHN E. ASHTON, 36, MGM employee, Nevada.
ELIZABETH BARRESI, 53, Nevada.
JOE BELL, 31, Arkansas.
DAVID R. BLAIR, JR., 22, Ohio.
DR. ROBERT P. BUSHELL, Ohio.
MARIA M. CAPETILLO, 31, Arkansas.
MS. WILLIE DUNCAN, MGM employee, Nevada.
WILLIAM M. GERBOSI, 24, Illinois.
GUSTAVE N. GUIDRY, 58, Louisiana.
DELLUM HANKS, 48, Missouri.
EDWARD HERRING, 46, Irvine, California.
GENESE HELEN HERRING, 35, Irvine, California.
MARK HICKS, 25, New Jersey.
STEVEN JACK HOLSHUH.
JAMES L. HOO.
JODELL HUDGINS, 27 MGM employee.
RICHARD OREN JACKSON, 44, Minnesota.
BLANCHE E. KELLER, 64, Indiana.
JAC KELLER, 61, Indiana.
EMIL JOSEPH KNICK, 50, Maryland.
MARY ELAINE KNICK, 39, Maryland.
THERESA LEVITT, 53, California.
ELLIS LITTMAN, 69, Missouri.
ROSYLN E. LITTMAN, 63, Missouri.
DOLORES ANN MACK, 46, Texas.
CAROL ANN MAYER, 36, Ohio.
MR. G. A. McCARTHY.
GENELL McDOWELL, 48, Tennessee.
CHRISTINE LYNN McGAUGHEY, 33, California.
ETHEL DOROTHEY McKINNEY, 68, California.
VINCENT JAMES McKINNEY, 73, California.
ELMIRA L. McQUITHY, 70, Indiana.
BARBARA E. MIDDLETON.
JOHN FLOYD MONAWECK, 56, Arkansas.
FERNANDO LOBO MORALES.
SUSANNA E. LOBO MORALES.
DR. DONALD NILSSON, 59, Nebraska.
JANET T. NILSSON, 59, Nebraska.
LORI ANN NOSE, 19, Ohio.
CHARLES PALAZZOLO, 40, Massachusetts.
DIANE PANGBURN, 23, Iowa.
ROBERTA PETERSEN, 23, Illinois.
SHERMAN PICKETT, 53, MGM Security Guard, Nevada.
DAVID P. POTTER, 24, Illinois.
EDWARD M. ROGALL, 69, Florida.
PEARL M. ROGALL, 71, Florida.
BARBARA J. SANDERS, 37, Indiana.
CATHERINE ANN SANDERS, 23, Colorado.
DAVID F. SANDERS, 39, Indiana.
DONALD M. SHAFFER, 42, West Virginia.
RICHARD E. SIPFLE, 46, Michigan.
ALLAN M. SOSHNIK, 32, Georgia.
MRS B. P. SOSHNIK, Georgia.
TOM SPAGNOLA, 40, Iowa.
GARY DEAN STEPHENS, 43, Oklahoma.
SAMMIE LEE STEPHENS, 43, Oklahoma.
JAMES E. THEBEAULT, 32, Ohio.
PHYLLIS THOMAS, 20, Nevada.
ANDRES GARCIA TORRES.
CARLES TRAMMEL, 53, Florida.
PATRICIA TUNIS, 60, California.
ALAN M. UNOLD, 37, New York.
ROSALIE UNOLD, 42, New York.
JESUS LUIS VASQUEZ.
DR. HOUSHANG VOSSOUGHI, 43, Pennsylvania.
MARY ANN VOSSOUGHI, 41, Pennsylvania.