Eric Carr Gulliver's Fire Press Coverage, 1974
Discotheque Fire Kills 24 Persons
PORT CHESTER, N.Y. (AP) -- Fire and thick smoke swept a swinging discotheque jammed with young merrymakers from the affluent Weschester and Connecticut communities early Sunday, killing 24 of them. Medical authorities said 11 women and 13 men all died of smoke inhalation. Intense heat burned their bodies after death which came "within minutes, sometimes within seconds," they said. The number of injured in the inderno at Gulliver's Resturant could not be accurately determined, but five were treated at United Hospital here, and 22 at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut. Fifteen were admitted, all for smoke inhalation. Rescue workers said about two score more were treated on the scene or at hospitals for light eases of smoke inhalation. Alfred DelBello, Westchester County Executive, called the fire "one of the worst tragedies in the history of the county." He ordered a full investigation. "If there are criminal aspects to this tragedy, we will send it to the grand jury and we will prosecute," Dist. Atty. Carl Vergari said.
A rock group called the Creation was blaring away in the laughter-filled, dimly-lit room on the Boston Post Road at the New York-Connecticut border when the first wisps of acrid smelling smoke drifted in. The leader, John Henderson, said he did not smell the smoke but "we were told to give an announcement that there was a fire nearby and not to get excited. "We told them there was no danger and to leave calmly." Drummer Paul Caravello said "people were about half way up the stairs when the lights went out and there was lots of smoke. That's when the panic started."
Gulliver's was built on a split-level plan. Organist Damon DeSeis and lead singer George Clark stayed behind trying to calm the crowd. It was not known whether they escaped. One body was found on the bandstand. Besides the main exit, there were two fire doors and a way out through the kitchen. "All of a sudden," said Judy Geralla, 18, of Bridgeport, Conn., "the lights went out and everybody started coughing and going lo the exit." Joe Parsons, Jr., of Stamford, Stamford, Conn., a part-time worker at discotechque, said "in the beginning there was no panic, but then the place filled up with smoke and everyone became disoriented." "The place was packed because there were a lot of people home from college," Parsons said. "People were screaming and running all around the place," one fireman said. "When the men hit the dance floor the bodies were there -- one of meb men fell over one." Mayor Joseph Dzaluk of Port Chester, which has a population of about 25,000, said the building was reccntly inspected and found to be free of violations. He said the restaurant burned down once before when it was known as Lucy's and was damaged by fire when it was known as the OPG Diner.
Vergari said his daughter described Gulliver's as "one of the elite places in Westchester." There is a $2 cover charge on Saturdays. Drink prices range from $1.25 for beer to $2 for scotch at a table. According to Dzaluk, "the band leader advised people on the dance floor that they had better leave when he noticed a little smoke. However, the crowd did not leave until the smoke got more intense and he began shouting for everyone to move out immediately."
They did as the vanguard of 300 firemen poured in to fight the blaze. "We have no occupancy law per se," said Port Chester Fire Chief Vincent Rathgeb. "It is usually left up to common sense. The owners have been very good in the past in making sure the place is not overcrowded." Both officials said the fire exits were operable. The firemen poured 18 inches of water into the discotheque before the blaze was brought under control at about 5 a.m. The cause of the fire was not immediately determined by preliminary investigation, but fire officials speculated that it started in the basement area of The Clothes Post, a men's store in the same building. The Clothes Post was completely destroyed and a neighboring bowling alley heavily damaged. The first smoke, firemen said, was probably sucked into Gulliver's through the air-conditioning system.
24 dead in 'Singles Bar' fire (1974)
PORT CHESTER, N.Y. - Suffocating smoke from a flash fire trapped and killed 24 panic-stricken young patrons and employees of a singles bar aside the New York-Connecticut border early this morning.
More than 100 men and women in their late teens or early 20's were dancing to the soul-rock music of the Creations at Gulliver's on the outskirts of this city when the leader stopped the music to announce that there was a small fire. Within minutes, the survivors said, the sunken dance floor, called "The Pit," was a turmoil of thick black smoke and screaming, terror-stricken people. The narrow stairway to the exit was suddenly packed with people clawing one another for air.
Most of the 24 bodies were found at the foot of the stairs leading from the dance door to the exit, atop one another. Others were scattered around the dance floor, the last charred among the twisted instruments of the rock band. Dr. Henry Siegel. the Westchcster County medical examiner, said that 11 of the victims were female and 13 male. All but one or two, he said, appeared to be between the ages of 18 and 25. All died of carbon monoxide poisoning but most were subsequently burned, making identification difficult.
In addition lo the dead 17 patrons and 10 firemen were treated at United Hospital in Port Chester and Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut for smoke inhalation, minor burns and bruises. Of the 17 who remained hospitalized, all were listed in satisfactory condition. The band playing last night, The Creation, was formerly called Salt and Pepper because it has both black and white players. Patrons said it was a good-humor night, not quite as crowded as usual. Joe Parsons Jr., a 20-year-old Mason's helper who worked as a part-time bouncer, remembered that the first hint of trouble came when the band stopped playing. It was shortly before 1 a.m. "We were told to give an announcement that there was a fire nearby and not to get excited," said John Henderson, the band leader. "We told them there was no danger and to leave calmly."
Debbie Quick, 21, of Greenwich, had stopped in for a while and was standing near the stairs to the exit. "The band announced there was a small fire and lo keep calm," she recalled. "Then Henry Fondu (one of the operators of the bar) told everybody to leave quietly." AUTHORITIES were not sure where the fire started, but said it appeared that the flash point was somewhere near the wall separating the bar and Bowling alley, under the bandstand. It appeared that the air-conditioner carried the first wisps of smoke. Two Greenwich policemen investigating a burglary at a store across the parking lot saw smoke and called in an alarm. The Greenwich Fire Department received the alarm at 1:01 a.m. and after the first truck arrived relayed it to the Port Chester Fire Department, which received an alarm at 1:15 a.m. The entrance to Gulliver's is in Connecticut, but most of Ihe building is in Weschester County.
Those inside recalled that patrons started moving camly toward the exit leading to the parking lot, but progress was slow because at most they could go up only three abreast, Judy Geralla. 18, of Bridgeport, was near the stairs. "All of a sudden, the lights went out and everybody started coughing and going to the exit." The lawyer for the operators said that "the electricity was in operation and stayed on after the fire started," but several other patrons also remember a blackout.
Miss Quick was going up the stairs when the panic started. "All of a sudden, everybody was running and screaming," she said. "All you could see was smoke. I got knocked down, I got up. I got knocked down again. There were girls lying all over the place. I don't know how I got out" IN THE turmoil on the dance door beyond the stairs, Damon Deseis, the organist for Tne Creation, and George Clark, the lead singer, were trying lo quiet the crowd. They are still missing.
Mrs. Karen Murzullo. 23, had gone to the club with her brother, Thomas Burke 3rd, and his date, still unidentified. The couple was dancing when the fire broke out. while Mrs. Murzullo waited near the stairs. "There were over 100 people down there," she said. "There was smoke and the band stopped playing." She went quickly up the stairs and out to the parking lot. "Fifteen seconds after we got out, black, hideous smoke came out," she said. In the ensuing minutes, fire trucks and disaster equipment rolled up from Greenwich, Port Chester and surrounding towns.
"When I got here, thisplace was littered with people on the ground," said the Port Chester fire chief, Vincent Halligob. "I didn't know whether they were alive or dead." Firemen tried to go into the front entrance, but were driven back by intense heat. LT. Patrick Gordiski of the Port Chester Fire Department, went with his men along the catwalk at the back of the building. "You couldn't see a foot in front of you," he said. "I pulled one guy out of the fire door and another was on the catwalk. Those are the only two I saw. There was no way of getting inside with the fire."
Lead Singer Discotheque Fire Victim (1974)
The lead singer with the rock group, The "Creations" has been identtified as the 24th and final victim of last Sunday's flash fire at Gulliver's discotheque in Port Chester, NY. The Westchester County Medical Examiner's Office announced Thursday that George D. Chase, 25, of the Bronx, was positively identified after his fingerprints were flown in from Albany for examination by medical technicians.
Chase was the lead vocalist with "Creations," the rock band that was playing at the discotheque on the morning of he fire. The group's organist. Damon DeFeis, also died in the blaze. Meanwhile, investigators from the county district attorney's office and the Port Chester Fire Department were forced to halt their probe Thursday as they waited for a crane to remove heavy debris tanging perilously over the area where the blaze may have started. The investigation was expected to resume sometime today.