Camden, New Jersey –
The aircraft carrier Belleau Wood, named in tribute to the Marine Corps’ exploits in World War I, will be launched Sunday at the yards of the New York Shipbuilding Corporation. It will be the third carrier launched at the yard in 15 weeks.
Toll set at 490, with 30 more suffering pneumonia; alcoholic fumes may have caused blast, theorizers on holocaust suggest
Boston, Massachusetts (UP) –
A Suffolk County grand jury convened today to hear testimony and possibly hand down manslaughter or criminal negligence indictments resulting from the Cocoanut Grove Nightclub holocaust in which at least 490 persons lost their lives.
As a statewide investigation of the disaster continued, the Boston Public Safety Committee announced the corrected death figures after a thorough check. The committee said that 174 of those injured Saturday night were still hospitalized.
Other new developments:
A survey indicated that Boston’s nightclub “blackout” was costing owners about $125,000 per night, and that some 5,000 entertainers, waiters, and other employees were out of work.
An announcement by the Boston Licensing Board that all first-class hotels in the city would be inspected and that any cocktail rooms or lounges found unsafe would be closed.
A hint that the grand jury investigation might be broadened to determine the actual ownership of all Boston nightspots.
Revival of the theory that a short circuit may have started the fire. Attorney General Robert T. Bushnell received information that wiring in the Cocoanut Grove’s main dining room between the actual and false ceilings was done by a young shipyard worker in his spare time.
Theodore Eldracher, a city building inspector, told Fire Commissioner William A. Reilly’s board of inquiry that alterations were still going on at the time fire swept the Cocoanut Grove. The alterations were begun Sept. 25 in the new cocktail lounge.
Fire door uncovered
There was a door at the end of the passage leading into the main dining room. It was going to be a fire door eventually, but there was no metal covering on it at the time.
Morrill Guerin, a Brookline waiter, testified he was in the downstairs kitchen when a couple of waiters burst in from the Melody Lounge looking for fire extinguishers.
I showed them where the extinguishers were and then I went up to the main dining room where people were running around screaming. There was such a crowd there that I hurried downstairs and escaped through the back service entrance.
Andrew Louzan, 17-year-old tap dancer, said he was in one of the dressing rooms when the fire started. When he saw the crowd milling around, he returned to warn 12 girl entertainers and then climbed through a window to a roof and escaped down a ladder.
Inspection clause cited
Mr. Bushnell earlier indicated that at least some of his contemplated prosecutions would be under Chapter 143, Section 36, of the Massachusetts General Laws which specifies that all official inspections of:
…theaters and special or public halls shall cover all details relating to the condition of the building as regards the safety of life and property.
The Cocoanut Grove was both a theater and a public hall for the purpose of the law, he said, though Boston municipal ordinances specify that theaters are places where admissions are charged, which is said to have permitted nightclubs like the Cocoanut Grove to get by with much less in the way of fire prevention than theaters.
Night life dampened
The Boston Licensing Board suspended the victualers’ licenses of all nightclubs and restaurants offering entertainment, 52 in all, pending a thorough inspection of their premises and decorations. They’ll probably remain closed several days with the resultant damper on night life.
Those closed included the Mayfair and Club 43, neighbors of the Cocoanut Grove, and the Latin Quarter, Beachcomber and Village Barn.
The board had first suspended the entertainment licenses of 682 restaurants, including the nightclubs, 293 taverns, and 35 hotels after Governor Leverett Saltonstall had warned that it would incur a grave responsibility if there was another tragedy in a public place comparable with that of the Cocoanut Grove.
Lid clamped at 9 p.m.
Then, at 9 p.m., it went further by suspending the victualling licenses of the nightclubs and specific restaurants, thereby closing them all together.
Fifty-two members of the armed services, including two WAVES, were lost, a survey showed today. The injured included 36 other soldiers, sailors and Marines.
Army men killed numbered 17. The Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard lost 35 men.
Names of additional dead were announced last night. They were:
- Ens. Edward Maher, USNR, no address;
- Lt. Ward M. Palmer, USNR, no address;
- Ethel Powell, 35 West 65th St., New York;
- Francis X. Gale, Dorchester;
- Mary Zenkin, 38, of Boston.
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