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6 Dead in Greenville Hotel Fire


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From the Greenville News (01/25/04)


Posted Sunday, January 25, 2004 - 2:40 pm

Fire investigators are trying to determine the cause of a fire this morning that killed six people, including a toddler, and injured a dozen others at the Comfort Inn on Congaree Road near Roper

Mountain Road, officials said.

Richard Greenlee of Spruce Pines, N.C., who was in a room on the third floor, said he tied sheets together and lowered his 7-year-old daughter, Kourtney, through the window to the ground.

Greenlee then helped a friend, Terry Letterman, out the window. Firefighters arrived and raised a ladder to help Greenlee down.

"I was scared," Kourtney said. "I thought my dad wouldn't make it."

The three had come to Greenville to watch the monster truck rally at the Bi-Lo Center.

Four bodies were found on the third floor of the hotel after the flames were extinguished, said Coroner Parks Evans. A male toddler was found lying close to the body of a woman, he said, and two women were found in the hall, Evans said. Two more people — a man and a woman — were found in separate rooms on the third floor, he said.

All were in sleeping clothes and some had pocketbooks on them, Evans said. The pocketbooks had not yet been inspected this morning for identifications, he said.

At a press conference today, Gary Downey, chief of the Wade Hampton Fire Department, said the hotel did not have a sprinkler system. It was built before county codes required them, he said.

The fire started in the hallway of the third floor, Downey said. Do one used the fire extinguishers that were on each of the hotel's five floors, he said.

Downey said the fire call came at 4:24 a.m. Sgt. Shea Smith of the Greenville County Sheriff's Office said deputies arrived before firefighters and ran into the building to begin evacuating people.

Deputies did not reach the third floor, Smith said. As the fire heated up and the smoke thickened, they turned the rescue effort over to firefighters, he said.

Six of the injured were sent to the burn center at Doctor's Hospital in Augusta, Ga., said Tanya Simpson, the center's director. Three who were in critical condition were brought in around 9 a.m. and are on life support, she said.

Greenville's EMS director Bill Marcley said he doesn't remember a hotel fire that claimed this many lives in his 36 years in Greenville.

The first 15 or 20 minutes after EMS arrived were chaotic as hotel patrons fled in panic in the icy early morning rain, Marcley said.

One man smashed out a third-floor window and jumped to a ledge about 20-feet below, he said.

He was carried down on a ladder tied to a basket stretcher, Marcley said.

At least 12 people were transported to area trauma centers for smoke inhalation and burns, he said.

Greenville Memorial got eight of those including the two who jumped from the windows, said Erika Spinelli, hospital spokeswoman.

The other person still at Greenville Memorial is a woman who jumped out a window, Spinelli said.


*hauntedheadnc sez, "Terrible."*

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