Residents living adjacent to the Stardust nightclub where 48 people died in a fire in 1981 saw significant flames coming through the roof before the fire was first seen in a seated area inside, Dublin coroners court has heard.
Witnesses at fresh inquests into the deaths of the 48, aged 16 to 27, in a fire in the early hours of February 14th, 1981, said on Tuesday they saw “high flames” through a part of the roof over the northern part of the ballroom. Fire was first seen inside on seats in the western area of the venue.
Brenda Kelly still lives at Maryfield Crescent which runs around the perimeter of the Artane site. She was woken by “crackling noises” at about 1.38am, she said. The noise got louder and she went to her bedroom window, which has a clear view towards the Stardust site, and saw a “red glow” and “smoke”. She tried to wake her husband unsuccessfully, and remained looking at the fire.
“I couldn’t hear any sound of any fire brigades coming so I ran downstairs and I phoned 999,” she said. Her call, the inquests heard, was logged by Dublin Fire Brigade as coming in at 1.43am.
The fire was first seen inside the venue, as a small flame, at 1.40am the inquests have heard.
Bernadette Kenny, who lived at Maryfield Drive, metres from the Stardust, said she was first alerted to the fire when she heard her father call her brothers at about 1.20am.
“When I went into my parents’ room Paul and Tony were looking out the front window. I asked my mother what was going on and she told me that there was a fire over in the Stardust. The Stardust is directly across from our house and there is only a high wall between the house and the building.”
When she looked out the bedroom window towards the Stardust she saw flames “shooting up through the roof” towards the back of the ballroom over the north alcove.
“There was a tree in front of our house so the flames had to be higher than the tree.”
Asked by Bernard Condon for families of ten of those who died if there was a “possibility of some error” in her time given she may have been stressed, she said she was “certain it was 1.21am” when she looked at the clock in her parents’ room.
“We actually weren’t stressed. We didn’t realise the enormity of the fire. We just thought it was a fire in the factory in the roof. So, none of us were alarmed. I literally went back to bed afterwards because I didn’t hear any fire brigade, ambulances or nothing.”
Anthony Pasquetti, who lived with his parents at Maryfield Drive, said he arrived home about 1.35am having left his girlfriend’s house at 1.30am.
He heard “screaming and shouting” from the Stardust, and ran into the back garden where he could see the roof of the Stardust. He heard cracking and saw “slight sparks”.
“I ran upstairs to my mother’s room to get a better view. I could see just a large glow in the roof … it looked like a fire inside the roof.” He said the flames were coming through the roof “at the very back”, over the northern section of the ballroom.
Paul O’Toole, who lived at Kilmore Road beside the Stardust site, was woken by his father. He went into his parents’ bedroom and saw “flames coming out through the roof”. He went back to his room, got dressed, went back to his parents’ room to look again, before running over to the site. Fire engines arrived shortly after 1.50am he said.
The inquests continue.