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The 48 victims of the Stardust fire Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie
Inquest

Stardust patron tells inquest he 'always felt it wasn't right' having carpet tiles on walls

The inquest continues next Monday in the Pillar Room of the Rotunda Hospital.

PATRONS OF THE Stardust nightclub have given evidence of people being unable to get out of the main doors of the building on the night of the blaze, with one witness saying he saw the main doors locked 10 minutes before the fire started.

The jury in the Dublin District Coroner’s Court today also heard from one patron, Peter Redmond, who said he thought the carpet tiles on the walls of the nightclub “didn’t look right” from the first time he saw them and that “the flames were burning up the wall”.

Redmond was giving evidence during the inquest into the blaze that swept through the nightclub in the early hours of 14 February 1981.

In his original statement, which was read into the record by the court registrar, Redmond said that he was in the bar when he saw the “bright orange lights of a fire behind the curtain” and “a lot of people began to run and scream”.

He said he could hear crackling and pulled the woman he was with to exit two.

“As we approached this doorway, I saw that the hallway was full of people pushing and shoving. At this point, the lights went out, and the place was filled with black smoke,” he said.

Redmond said that there was no movement out of this exit for a few minutes, then suddenly all the people began pouring out of the doorway.

He said he tried to get back in for his friend but could not because of “the crush of the crowd”. He said that a bouncer at the door stopped him from going back in, saying that they had to keep the doors closed as everyone was out.

In his statement, Redmond also said that the week before, he had been in the Stardust when most of the lights on the stage and ceiling went off, as did the microphone. He said that a man came out and worked at the plugs, and then the lights worked again.

In response to questioning by Gemma McLoughlin-Burke BL, a member of the coroner’s legal team, Redmond said that he remembered seeing carpet tiles on the walls of the Stardust “and I always felt it wasn’t right”.

“That night, I saw the fire going up the wall, and once it got to the ceiling that’s when everything became black. You just couldn’t see anything or anybody,” he said.

Regarding the carpet tiles on the wall, Redmond told Joe Brolly BL, representing a number of families, that “it just didn’t look right from the very first time I saw it”.

“It wasn’t the right thing to have on a wall. I remember seeing it that night as I’m trying to get out and, of course, it’s on fire, the flames were burning up the wall, burning up what looked like carpet. It was so scary, that thought will never leave me,” he said.

Further evidence

The jury also heard evidence from Liam “Leo” Hennessy, who was 31 at the time of the fire.

In his original statement, Hennessy said that he was in the dispense bar on the night when he saw smoke from the top of a curtained off area, and someone shouted that there was a fire.

He said his friend, Dave Flood, was asleep in front of him, and he saw people running to exit one, and there was heavy smoke from the curtained off area. He said he lifted up Dave Flood and “the bar was ablaze”.

He said he saw a cloud of black smoke with red sparks, and then everything went black, so he could not see Dave Flood. He then saw Dave with another friend.

“I was in a state of shock. I wanted to sit down and go to sleep as it was very warm,” he said. Hennessy said he made for exit one and was pushed through this exit.

“I thought exit one was on fire. I went down some steps, I fell on the ground, got up and got sick,” he said. “I heard some bangs from inside. I saw a huge flame go up into the sky.”

He said that the next day, he heard that Dave Flood had died.

In response to questioning by McLoughlin-Burke, Hennessy said there was a panic and everyone got stuck towards the entrance. He said that he saw Dave Flood near the dancefloor and he “shook him all around the place” but he did not know if he was after waking him up or not.

“When I grabbed him by the shoulders, I was looking up at the fire exit, and the next minute a fireball came through the exit. I let him go and ran up towards the fire exit,” said Hennessy.

Darragh Mackin, representing a number of the families of the victims including David Flood’s, thanked Hennessy on behalf of the Flood family for all his efforts to save Flood’s life.

Further evidence was heard from Kathleen Deeney, whose original statement was read into the record by the court registrar. In her statement, Deeney said that she saw a cloud of smoke come over the dancefloor and the lights went out.

“I was knocked to the floor, I got up and made my way, mostly being pushed along with the crowd towards the main door. There were three or four people on top of each other on the floor, and there was no movement from them. There were people climbing over them, and I did the same,” she said.

She said she ended up in a small room without windows that she took to be the cloakroom and her hair was getting singed from the heat. She said she got outside and saw that the main doors were closed. She said she saw nobody getting out through those doors, but she saw people getting out through another exit.

In response to questioning by McLoughlin-Burke, Deeney said was concentrating on getting to exit two when she was knocked to the floor.

“When I fell to the floor, I knew I had to get up so I got up, I must have stepped on people, because when the lights went out, you were just in a sheer panic to get out. I knew I was going in the right direction, but when the lights went out, it was mental, it was just awful,” she said.

The jury also heard evidence from David Bell, who, in his original statement, said that when he first saw the fire it looked very small, but then the fire spread across the ceiling very quickly. He said that the hallway was crowded with people and the main doors appeared to be closed as there was no movement.

In his statement, he said that around 1.30am, before the fire began, he saw a lock in place on the main door.

Bell told Des Fahy KC, representing a number of the families, that he could see “the flat of a Chubb lock was across” the door. He confirmed to Fahy that 10 minutes before the fire, he saw the Chubb lock was in place locking the main exit door.

The inquest continues next Monday in the Pillar Room of the Rotunda Hospital.