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Inquests told of ‘mass panic’ during Stardust fire

The Stardust inquests have heard how the emergency services described scenes of “mass panic” when they arrived on the site of the nightclub blaze.

The coroner, Dr Myra Cullinane, is continuing her summary of evidence for the 13-person jury, as these almost year-long proceedings near its final stages.

In all, the inquests have heard direct or ‘read-in’ evidence from over 370 witnesses since it began last April.

Forty-eight people died in the 1981 Artane nightclub fire. The victims were aged between 16 and 27 years of age and most came from neighbouring areas.

Today, the coroner summarised the evidence given by the emergency responders who were the first on the scene and who tackled the blaze.

One firefighter, the court heard, who at the time had 15-year experience in the brigade said it was the worst tragedy he had ever encountered.

The jury was also told how the fire was completely out of control when the emergency services arrived on the scene, and they spent one hour tackling the blaze before it was brought under control.

The court has previously heard how the first fire brigade unit arrived at 1.51am, and that at 2.54am, the fire was largely extinguished. The fire service remained on site until 7am, putting out smaller fires.

The coroner also recalled the evidence of William McQuaid who was a senior officer with the brigade and who told the court that the fire had spread more rapidly than a normal fire and that there must have been a “terrific heat” for the ceiling to collapse.

The court also heard how the injured were taken to hospital and how the deceased were removed from the club.

The coroner also reminded the jury of evidence from gardaí who attended, and who said it was “pandemonium” and that people at the scene were hysterical.

Dr Cullinane also recalled evidence of how gardaí undertook a “detailed” sifting through of the entire ballroom, including the west alcove, after the fire and that nothing of evidential value was found.

The inquests continue tomorrow.

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