Shamokin, PA Walnut Towers Motor Inn Fire, Jan 1977


Shamokin, Pa. (UPI) - Fire of undetermined origin has claimed the lives of nine persons in a former factory that had been converted into a four-story hotel in this eastern Pennsylvania coal mining community.
The victims of the Sunday morning blaze included eight guests and JOHN LUKENS, 44, owner of the hotel, the Walnut Towers Motor Inn. He was trapped in an elevator between two floors and died of smoke inhalation.
The other dead were identified as:
ALEXIS PRICE, Reading, Pa.
WILLIAM M. HARTUNG, 31, and JUDY HARTUNG, 30, both of Stephen City, Va.
ROBERT ADDISON, 52, Denver, Col.
LAWRENCE A SURAK, 29, Shamokin, Pa.
JOSEPH GUZEWICH, 23, Mt. Carmel, Pa.
MARY POVISH, 37, Paxinos, Pa., and
TED MILLER, 36, Winchester, Va.
BRENDA MILLER, 33, wife of TED MILLER, suffered a broken hip when she jumped from a second-floor window, and a fireman, who fell down the elevator shaft while trying to rescue LUKENS, suffered a broken elbow.
Shamokin is located about 50 miles northeast of Harrisburg. Nationwide more than 80 persons in fires over the New Year's weekend.
Fire Chief David Reed said the blaze started on the second floor at 1:53 a.m.
"As we entered, there was a fire on the second floor which completely involved the occupants," he said.
"The occupants on the second floor did not get out. We didn't get the man in the elevator out until he was overcome."
Reed said the block-long brick structure, which included four stories and a basement, was a factory converted into a hotel about two years ago.
"We lost the building, all five floors," Reed said. "We had people on the third floor who did get out and people on the first floor that got out."
A police department spokesman said 11 guests were registered at the inn.
"Some of the people were transients,"
the spokesman said, "and others were people from out of town who were setting up businesses in the area."
Ernest and Louise Wendt of Edison, N.J. were also registered at the hotel but escaped injury.
Patrons in the hotel's bar also escaped without injury.
An adjoining factory sustained minor damage.
The spokesman said Reed and local police had joined the state police fire marshal's office in investigating the blaze.

Lebanon Daily News Pennsylvania 1977-01-03