Tuesday, February 18, 2003
Police investigate fatal club crush.
US authorities launched a probe today into a stampede at a Chicago nightclub possibly sparked by security guards spraying mace that left 21 people dead, as the families of the victims identified the bodies of their loved ones. [...]
The clubbers were apparently trampled to death when hundreds of young party-goers made a mad dash for the exit after security guards reportedly used mace or pepper spray to break up a fight between several patrons at E2. [...]
Chicago fire commissioner James Joyce described how firefighters who were called to the building discovered "victims stacked in the stairwell next to the exit."
They also found that two other exits were either locked or blocked by bags of laundry from a restaurant on the ground floor. Firefighters were obliged to use "sledge hammers and iron prys to pry those doors open," said Joyce.
A former E2 security guard revealed that the rear exit was typically kept locked because managers didn't want clubbers sneaking in without paying. [...]
But contrary to what officials first thought, it's not clear those exits played much of a role in the disaster since few patrons were apparently aware of them, Joyce said late today.
"They apparently didn't try to use those doors."
What is clear though, is that the club was operating in violation of a court order obtained by the city last July. "The owner knows damn well that he is not to open that second floor facility," Joyce said.
There'll be some almighty lawsuits over this one. This bit about the security guards was new to me, though; when I first heard the story late last night there were eight dead and all the report said was someone had unleashed mace or pepper spray. Nothing said about security being the spray-wielders.