Montreal, QB Terrible Disaster At Picture Theatre, Jan 1927
77 MONTREAL KIDDIES KILLED.
LIVES ARE SNUFFED OUT IN SUNDAY PICTURE THEATRE FIRE.
LITTLE VICTIMS EITHER TRAMPLED, SUFFOCATED AS EXITS JAMMED IN RUSH.
ONE OF MOST POIGNANT TRAGEDIES IN HISTORY OF MONTREAL -- VICTIMS RANGE FROM 5 TO 16 YEARS -- UNPARALLELED SCENES AS FRANTIC PARENTS BESIEGE MORGUE SEEKING THEIR LOVED ONES.
Montreal, Jan. 10. -- The death of another youngster today brought the number of casualties up to 77 in the Laurier Palace theatre fire and panic here yesterday afternoon. Some thirty other children, who were injured in the catastrophe, are now receiving treatment in hospitals. The six bodies which remained unidentified up to a later hour last night were claimed by the parents of the victims at the morgue today.
The six were: LAROTTE FRANCOEUR, 14; ARTHUR GASTON, 6; ROGER PAGEAU, 14; ARTHUR GODON, 13; IDA GODIN, 10; and ARTHUR ST. PIERRE, 13.
All of the victims have now been identified.
Montreal Surveys Scene of Havoc.
Montreal, Jan. 10. -- The citizens of Montreal this morning were sorrowfully surveying the havoc wrought yesterday afternoon, when, within a few brief minutes the lives of seventy-six children were snuffed out and twenty-four other persons were more or less seriously injured as the result of panic in the Laurier Palace moving picture theatre which followed an alarm of fire. The little victims whose ages ranged from five years to sixteen or seventeen were for the most part suffocated by smoke or trampled to death under the feet of the throng which jammed the exits in the wild rush to safety.
The tragedy is one of the most poignant that has ever occurred in this city and is the greatest moving picture catastrophe that has happened in this country. In several cases more than one member of the same family was killed.
Constable ALBERT BOISSEAU of the Tetreaultville police station, lost three children.
Frantic Parents Besiege Morgue.
All yesterday afternoon and evening there was a heart rending procession of distracted parents to the city morgue where the seventy-six little bodies were laid out, awaiting identification. The scenes within the building were unparalleled in their tragedy and in pathos as heartbroken mother crushed with grief, came to seek and in too many instances to claim some pitiful little corpse. Stricken to the depths with horror and the sorrow of it all, the officials guided the mourning parents among the bodies, themselves grim and unemotional as a rule, breakinginto tears at the sad and unprecedented spectacle. For hours an endless line of fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers passed before Coroner McMAHONE as the aged official, his head bowed in grief and his heart filled with sympathy, assisted them to fulfill the requirements of the law. Working ceaselessly and giving to each bereaved parent the same kindly attention throughout the night, the coroner issued death certificates after all identifications had been made and the cause of death determined.
Many Children Not Attended.
To each parent, he put the question whether their dead child had gone to the theatre attended by some responsible person and if he or she had secured the parents permission. The answers in many cases were in the negative.
How the fire, which was the cause of the catastrophe, began, will not be determined until the inquest which begins today and until the owner of the theatre, AMEEN LAWAND, a Syrian, has been questioned. LAWAND was taken to the police station at an early hour this morning in company with three others, the assistant manager, the head usher and the ticket taker. He was granted $500 bail and will appear as a witness.
The fire started during the showing of a comedy picture. The theatre was well filled, with children predominating. The fire was discovered by an usher who took immediate steps to extinguish it while at the same time counselling the audience to refrain from panic. The children, however, became frightened and a wild rush was made for the exits. Those who were seated in the balcony made a dash for the stairs, and it was here that the disaster happened. At the end of the stairway, near the bottom, only a few feet from the sidewalk, the children became jammed. Dozens of them fell and were trampled under foot, their life literally crushed out of them, while many more, fighting madly to get out of the building, tried to push them from behind. The result was a hopeless crush. So tightly was the mass jammed that even when assistance in the shape of firemen and policemen arrived, it was found impossible for twenty men, pulling on a rope attached to one of the children to release him from the crush.
The Work Of Rescue.
Holes were made in the stairs underneath the mass and another in the side wall of the building and through these many of the children were dragged to safety.
While this was in progress the fire had been extinguished, but the building was filled with smoke. Choking and gasping for breath, the children were feverishly dragged out of the theatre, but in many cases it was too late. The little people were brought out merely to temporarily breathe in the cold fresh air, and then to fall back dead.
Ambulances, police patrols and taxicabs were pressed into service, the taximen volunteering their assistance gratis and as the victims were handed out they were rushed to the hospitals. The dead children were taken to the morgue. Then began the sad search. Frantic parents, most of whom resided in the vicinity of the theatre, rushed madly from the place to the hospitals and from the hospitals to the morgue. In many cases the visit to the hospital ended the search, but in many more the search did not finish until the parents saw their childrens stretched out dead.
Policeman Finds Own Three Kiddies.
Several of the firemen and policemen had their own children attending the theatre and they worked feverishly to extricate the mass. Constable BOISSEAU sought his three children, and the second sheet he turned up on the sidewalk disclosed the features of one of them. His other two had likewise perished.
Mayor MODERIC MARTIN last evening issued a message of condolence to the bereaved parents and the Montreal Theatre Managers' association at once opened a subscription which will swell from the original $10,000 aimed at.
The theatre is in the Hochelaga district, in the east end of the city between Moreau street and Pie Ix boulevard.
The vast majority of the victims were French-Canadian children, although a few names are those of English-Canadians.
The Lethbridge Herald Alberta Canada 1927-01-10