New York, NY Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Disaster, Mar 1911
A TERRIBLE DISASTER.
140 OR MORE GIRLS AND MEN DEAD, AND MANY INJURED.
Fire Occurs in Ten-Story Factory Building Supposed to be Fireproof, and For That Reason Woefully Deficient as to Means of Exit in Case of Fire -- 800 or 900 Employes on Upper Three Floors Leap From Windows.
New York, March 26 -- What will go down in history as the fire disaster of Washington Square, entered upon its aftermath tonight with 82 of nearly 150 victims identified. The official death list was lessened rather than increased.
A revised count showed 141 dead tonight with 12 women and girls at death's door in hospitals. One hundred and fifty, all told, will perhaps cover the casualties when those whose hurts and burns seem fatal shall fave joined their fellow-workers now in the pine coffins of the pauper dead. Careful counting still rates the female victims at approximately 10 to every one male.
Broadly speaking, they were Jewish and Italian, living either on the East Side or in a small Italian quarter near the scene of the fire.
While a crowd of thousands was held back by the police, firemen with grappling irons and firehooks sought victims in the flooded cellar of the building all forenoon. A steam pump emptied the basement of water during the morning and the firemen believed, when they rested at the dinner hour, that they would find no more dead.
Tonight, however, they carried out another body, making three recovered during the day. The over count last night was probably due to checking off a charred portion of a body as a corpse.
The work of the day shed no light upon the cause of the blaze. This will probably never be known.
A spark for the motor driving the machines, shooting through the lint charged air of the operating room to a four-inch carpet of scraps on the floor, could easily have started a fire, but Chief CROKER was unwilling to say tonight that in his opinion it originated this way. While the chief was inspecting the scene this afternoon he noticed a dead mouse on the floor. Reporters who trooped up behind him captured a live mouse, too weakened to escape. It was the only living thing that survived the flames on those three floors.
The charities pier, where the dead lie, and the streets surrounding the building were stormed by thousands today, some sobbing, some silent. But the unidentified dead, who probably will lie unnamed in an common grave, drew the greatest number of grief racked relatives.
The coroner and the grand jury began their investigation today before the embers died in the burned building. They touched shoulders with the district attorney's men, building department agents, Fire Chief CROKER, Fire Commissioner WALDO and their helpers. There will be a thorough probing, and a fixing of the blame. If blame there be and it can be fixed.
Said District Attorney WHITMAN: "If what Chief CROKER tells me is correct, then someone is criminally liable and whoever it is, whether it be one or a dozen, shall be prosecuted. I never saw anything more horrible in my life."
"There are many buildings in this city in which even worse conditions prevail," declared Commissioner WALDO. "On this building there was only one outside iron balcony fire escape, with treads 12 inches wide."
It was so constructed that persons entering on the fire escapes by windows would have to close the iron shutters before they could escape. There were two enclosed fireproof stairs, only sufficiently wide for one person to descend at a time and with winding steps at the turns. Entrances to the stairs were blocked by partitions. From indications gates and doors appeared to have been locked at the time of the fire.
"The building itself," said Commissioner WALSO, "seemed to comply with the law governing the erection of fireproof structures. The owner of the building J. J. ASCH, of South Norwalk, Conn., apparently had observed the regulations of the building department," he said.
With all the dead removed from the building, the coroner began an investigation into the disaster -- one of several inquiries which will be conducted by city departments -- aided by attaches of the district attorney's office. The result of the inquest will be placed before the grand jurymen visited the scene and District Attorney WHITEMAN announced that those responsible for the loss of life will be rigorously prosecuted.
Lowville Journal & Republican New York 1911-03-30
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