False Wall Responsible for Many of Fire Deaths
New Orleans (UPI) Coroner Carl Rabin said today a false wall that hid windows from view in a French Quarter bar “certainly” was responsible for many of the 29 deaths in a flash fire that scorched the small lounge.
The bar—the Upstairs Lounge—had burglar bars on at least one window and its fire escape did not reach the ground, according to state records. But fire fighters, who examined the lounge yesterday, said it was in compliance with the state fire code.
Bodies of the 29 persons killed in the blaze Sunday were found on the opposite side of the room from the windows that may have had bars. The bodies were found on the side where a false-plywood wall hid windows that could have been used as an escape if they had been discovered sooner.
The 21 persons who did escape kicked through the plywood and went through the windows. Fifteen of them were injured in the plunge to the ground, and the others stood on ledges or fire escapes until they were rescued by firemen.
Authorities will were investigating the possibility of arson.
Ten of the victims were members of the New Orleans chapter of the Metropolitan Community Church, a homosexual church with 47 chapters in the United States and London. A service for the 10 was held last night in St. George’s Episcopal Church. The Rev. Troy Perry of Los Angeles, founder of the churches, said in a sermon the fire was deliberately started.