Chicago, IL LaSalle Hotel Fire and Panic, June 1946
58 PERSONS KILLED IN CHICAGO HOTEL FIRE.
MANY LEAP TO DEATH IN HYSTERIA AND PANIC FROM 23-STORY LaSALLE HOTEL.
By Frances T. Leary
United Press Staff Correspondent
Chicago, June 5 -- (UP) -- Fire leaped from an elevator shaft early today and flashed through the lower floors of the 23 story LaSalle hotel where 58 persons died in the worst hotel fire in Chicago's history.
Coroner A. L. BRODIE set the death toll officially at 58 and said many of them died as the result of mass hysteria and panic. Many leaped to their death from windows high above the crowded streets of Chicago's loop.
Fire Commissioner MICHAEL J. CORRIGAN also said many of the deaths were "tragically unnecessary."
The flames spread from an elevator shaft to an adjoining cocktail lounge and within seconds turned the ornate lobby into a fiery death trap.
Jump To Certain Death.
Modernistic leather upholstery in the bar ignited almost instantly and soon the expensive wood panelled walls of the lobby were enveloped in flames.
While thousands of spectators jammed the streets and hampered firemen outside, hotel guests fought through smoke filled halls. Many failed to make it. One sailor chose to jump from the 18th floor to certain death. Others leaped from lower floors.
Fire department officials investigating the cause, found that the fire apparently started in an elevator shaft below the street level. They believed it started in a signal cable beneath an elevator car.
Marchal FENN, deputy fire marshal in charge of fire prevention, disclosed that he had sent hotel officials a list of 10 violations of city fire prevention ordinances on May 10. He said the violations had not been corrected. Whether any of them contributed to the fire he declined to say.
200 Persons Injured.
Despite the panic there were stories of heroism. MRS. JULIA BARRY, a telephone operator, told the assistant manager she was going to "stick it out because I might do some good here at the switchboard." She died in the flames.