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    Exclamation Twenty-one dead in nightclub stampede

    I thought this kind of thing only happened in Asia....

    At least 21 dead in nightclub stampede
    Police describe 'mass chaos' when people headed for the door



    By Rudolph Bush
    Tribune staff reporter
    Published February 17, 2003, 11:42 AM CST

    Hundreds of people stormed the exits of a crowded Chicago night club after a disturbance broke out early today, only to be stopped by locked or blocked doors, creating a deadly crush, authorities said. At least 21 people were killed and 50 injured.

    Firefighters responding to E2, a dance club on the second floor of the Epitome restaurant building at 2347 S. Michigan Ave., found a number of locked or blocked doors and used sledgehammers and pry bars to open some of them so that people could be rescued, Fire Commissioner James Joyce said at a media briefing.

    Inside one door, near the building's kitchen, rescuers found four victims in cardiac arrest, Joyce said.

    “We found doors locked. We found doors blocked by storage and in some cases what appeared to be bags of laundry, maybe restaurant-type laundry. Those are (fire code) violations,” Joyce said.

    Most of the deaths appeared to have happened on the front staircase of the nightclub, and were due to cardiac arrest, the fire commissioner said. He called the locked doors elsewhere around the building a "contributing factor" in the deaths and injuries.

    "There are people who were trying to get out and could not get out,” Joyce said. “We can’t explain how management or ownership would allow that. We understand that they have some tight security procedures, but we can’t allow that to get in the way of safety.”

    Joyce said the club had "some history of violations. It doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming number of violations. That last time we were in there, in the fall, we did not observe any locked doors.”

    A fight broke out between two people, possibly two women, about 2 a.m. in the club, witnesses said. At least 1,500 and possibly as many as 2,000 patrons were gathered there at the time.

    Witnesses said security guards used mace and pepper spray to try to break up the fight. (Police today cautioned they had not yet confirmed this allegation.) In the ensuing melee, club goers rushed down a staircase leading to the front door. A side door reportedly was chained shut.

    In the crush, the glass front doors were jammed closed, and club goers piled up behind them, survivors said.

    "Everybody smashed; people crying, couldn’t breathe,’’ said club goer Reggie Clark. "Two ladies next to me died. A guy under me passed out.’’

    “People were banging on the door,” said Carlisa Howard, 26, of Chicago, who escaped from the building. “Girls were taking off their boots, pounding on the door” to try to get out.

    Other witnesses said they saw victims with crushed faces and broken legs, a pregnant woman who was badly hurt and others pleading for water, air and ice. People were packed so thick on the floor, even four or five others pulling at them couldn’t free them.

    “There was a lot of massive panic and crushing injuries,” said Chicago Deputy Fire Commissioner Larry Matkitis. “There were people piled up at the bottom of the staircase. It was a very chaotic scene.”

    “It appears a disturbance from within led to a mass chaos where people headed for the door. Most of the fatalities appear to have been crushed or had injuries due to suffocation,’’ said police Officer Ozzie Rodriguez.

    “We are interviewing and seeking out any witnesses that could help us determine exactly what happened inside this club this particular night," police Supt. Terry Hillard said at the media briefing. "We also are retrieving, reviewing and attempting to download high-tech video from the establishment.”

    Among the issues police are trying to pin down are whether mace, pepper spray or both were discharged in the crowded room, and if so, by whom, Hillard said.

    "If there’s anyone who was at this particular nightclub at this particular time and have information our investigation, please call” Area 2 detectives at 312-746-8252, Hillard said.

    He also disclosed police have investigated 80 incidents that allegedly have occurred in and around the nightclub since 2000 -- “a variety of things, everything from simple battery to battery, things such as that.”

    Another survivor, Amishoov Blackwell, 30, of Gary, Ind., had just gotten inside the club and was trying to check his coat on the second floor when people started rushing past him. The flow of the crowd pushed him back down the stairs, he said.

    People started tripping halfway down the stairwell, and he fell on top of several. Blackwell said he was trapped in the stairwell on top of the bodies for about 30 minutes, until fire fighters rescued him.

    Cory Thomas, 33, of Chicago went to the club about 3 a.m. to pick up two friends. As he waited outside, he saw people inside the club start to back up against the glass front door.

    "You could see a mound of people," Thomas said. "People were stacking on top of each other, screaming and gagging, I guess from the pepper spray. The door got blocked because there were too many people stacked up against it.’’

    "I saw them taking out a pregnant woman,’’ he said. "She was in bad shape. I saw at least 10 lifeless bodies.’’

    Kristy Mitchell, 22, of Gary, Ind., was one of the people trampled on the stairway. "People were stomping my legs,’’ she said. "When they pulled me up, I was dizzy and I couldn’t breathe.’’

    Matkitis said four people were confirmed dead. Thirty-six people were taken to local hospitals, 19 of them reportedly in critical condition.

    Medical teams were called from Northwestern Memorial Hospital and University of Chicago Hospitals to set up a treatment area at the site, fire officials said. A hazardous materials team also was summoned to check for the presence of mace and pepper spray.

    Ald. Madeline L. Haithcock (2nd), who came to the scene this morning, said she could recall no past problems with the club.

    “I’ve been here before. It’s a very nice club,” Haithcock said. “I can’t tell you anything that was wrong with it.”

    Later, at the media briefing, Haithcock said the club's owners had asked police to patrol the premises, but police had refused to do so. Hillard said it was against department policy to post personnel at private establishments.

    At mid-morning, total of 21 people were confirmed dead at nine locations.

    Four of the fatalities were at Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, and three each were at the Cook County medical examiner’s office, University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, University of Chicago Hospitals and Stroger Hospital of Cook Count.

    Two of the dead were at Mercy Hospital, and one each was at Northwestern Memorial, Mt. Sinai Hospital and Michael Reese Medical Center.

    Michigan Avenue and 24th Street in the immediate vicinity of the nightclub were blocked during the morning rush hour, and CTA buses were being re-routed.

    Rev. Jesse Jackson, who also came to the scene this morning, urged community members to help each other.

    “We are asking area ministers to go to hospitals,’’ Jackson said. “My people are overwhelmed with the suddenness of this. At a time like this, you have to lean on your faith.’’

    WGN-Ch. 9 and the Associated Press contributed to this story.
    Last edited by jaybird210; 02-17-2003 at 12:57 PM.
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    Whew....NJFF lives. Next time try the link, a lot less typing for ya!
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    Default

    Perhaps if budgets weren't being cut faster then the Brazilian rain forests, a routine inspection would have revealed those problems.

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    Default Budgets aside....

    e3med53:
    Perhaps if budgets weren't being cut faster then the Brazilian rain forests, a routine inspection would have revealed those problems.
    The news report that I saw had James Joyce telling the press that this club was inspected last summer and ordered SHUT DOWN due to several fire code violations!
    The owner, according to Joyce, was operating illegally. It wasn't budgets or lack of inspections that caused this tragedy. It was a criminal act.
    Oh and the fact that there was only one way in and one way out compounded the problems with panicked clubgoers.
    My guess is that an arrest will be made and then the civil suits will start to fly.
    This was absolutely senseless and avoidable.
    God bless the families of the victims.
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    This club owner should never be able to own another club again. They deserve the punishments from both criminal and civil trials, espcially since they were operating in violation of a shut down order.

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    So no excuse at all for that incident...thats even worse!!!!
    "Some days your the dog, some days your the hydrant"

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    Unhappy

    The latest on this is that there were other exits available, but were NOT chained shut, just obstructed, or hidden from view.

    The owner was told that the second story of the building was not to be used, due to safety concerns about the structures construction, not necessarily fire codes.
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    So how many departments are going to "attempt" to be a bit more pro-active in their area and make an effort to increase the number of inspections done and then follow them up?

    I'm sure the fire department is just as disappointed that this tragedy happened, but could they have done more? (I'm not being critical of them, just using this as a "food-for-thought".... )
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    Default Well the problem is,

    the lack of responsibility on the owners part.So many times the fire inspector walks in a club and finds no problem.All doors are unlocked and the club seems like a safe enviroment.I was in business and I know,how lot of people are trying to cheat the inspectors.I'm from Florida,our inspectors come usually once in a year,you have violation,he gives you thirty days to fix it,and you are in clear for another year.I do not know any club,which has unlucked door at night,however I know clubs with automated system so you are able to open the door with a push of button,or they open automatically in case of fire.Sad tragedy,I guess this system would cost the owner to much money,so he'd rather sacrified his guests.I hope he goes to jail for manslaughter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Thumbs down very bad

    Crushed people to death? I can't even get a picture in my head. I guess they could not breath, passed out , fell down and got trampled? Has anyone seen anything like this? besides in the news?

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    Unhappy

    On Chicago tonight last night they spoke with a crowd control specialist who claims to have advised the fire department to get more involved several years ago. He was told of to the side and off the record, that it had come from the higher ups(OUTSIDE THE DEPARTMENT)not to get involved.
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    Originally posted by e3med53
    Perhaps if budgets weren't being cut faster then the Brazilian rain forests, a routine inspection would have revealed those problems.
    My department conducts annual in-service fire inspections. As long as things look good for us, on that one day, a place is deemed "safe" for the entire year.

    What concerns me is the number of places where I see emergency exits bolted shut. This is an accepted practice during times when a business is closed. All too often, however, businesses forget to unlatch these doors when they open for the day or choose not to because of security reasons.

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    There is a TON of things that are going to come up about this incident. I havent gotten any "real" scoop yet, but I will probably hear what happend in the next few days. The members of the 2nd Batt. did one hell of a job from what is coming out. The old "blame game" is already heating up.. This should get interesting.

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    Default Inspections

    The problem with inspections is that they are usually done during the day, at times when the place is relatively quiet. Most cities don't have inspectors on duty in the evening or middle of the night, to go to clubs, restaurants, sports arena's and other public venues, and check the conditions while the place is full of customers. Things can be shipshape at 11AM when only the cleaners are on site, the lights are all on, and the manager is on his best behaviour; but at 11PM when the inspector is at home, and the club has 500 patrons, the lights are turned down low and the music is blaring, and maybe they've moved some tables and chairs out of the way of the dance floor and in front of an exit, and a crowd is lined up on the street waiting to pay their cover charge and get in and buy a few drinks; the club is quite possibly a recipe for disaster.

    I think many cities would be fooling themselves if they thought it couldn't happen in their city.

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    Mikey, did you see the interviews on Chicago Tonight on WTTW last night?
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    I missed it Wayne. From what I understand, a certain big-mouthed Reverend was on there talking his usual trash. Am I close? Is it the same guy who may have pressured the city into letting the place stay open?

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    Crushed people to death? I can't even get a picture in my head. I guess they could not breath, passed out , fell down and got trampled? Has anyone seen anything like this? besides in the news?
    In 1942 there was a Fire in a Club in Boston called the "Coacanut Grove." Over 600 people were Killed trying to escape. The article I read stated most of the patrons were killed not by the fire, but by being trampled to death. Again, it says there were limited exits and the main exit was a Revolving door. Can you imagine over 1000 people trying to cram through one revolving door in a panic?

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    Can you imagine over 1000 people trying to cram through one revolving door in a panic?

    Sounds like my workplace at quitting time.

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    From what I understand, a certain big-mouthed Reverend was on there talking his usual trash. Am I close? Is it the same guy who may have pressured the city into letting the place stay open?


    That's funny, I've heard the same thing....

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    Why yes, Mikey it was! This moron tried to imply that because the owner was one of only a few black merchants in the area that he should get special treatment! It was quite an interesting exchange. He trid to deflect blame from the owner by saying that it was some promoter who put on the party that night, not him. Like that makes a damn bit of difference! The owner should not have rented the space as it was NOT SUPPOSED TO BE OPEN!!!

    I can hardly wait for the next round of retoric in this Chicago Story!
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    "What concerns me is the number of places where I see emergency exits bolted shut. This is an accepted practice during times when a business is closed. All too often, however, businesses forget to unlatch these doors when they open for the day or choose not to because of security reasons."

    Okay, now answer me this. If you are seeing these places, how come no one speaks up? Any person, be they fire fighter, Fire Chief, Fire Inspector or member of the public has a right to say...."You are breaking the law and if you do not rectify this you will be charged". Follow this up with a call to the Fire Prevention Bureau for their follow up. You may not be able to charge them as an inspector can, but you can point out that as a patron of their business you do not appreciate their blatant disregard for your safety.

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    I heard that this big-mouthed Reverend was blaming this incident on the war on terrorism (everybody thought it was a chemical attack) and that he is a personal friend of the owner of the club and went to bat for him with the city council to get the club to stay open.

    Question: Where does this big mouth Reverend preach and where does he get his money? (Rhetorical, I know the answer).

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    Talking

    C'mon George! Politics in Chicago are like politics in...well....JERSEY!! All the political'players' have their special 'projects'. It is amazing to me how many preachers get in to the politics in Chicago. No. Wait. I am not amazed at all! This is Chicago after all!

    We got Jesse Jackson to deal with here too! We should parachute him into Iraq! Saddam would be begging for mercy in a week!!LOL
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    I wonder how the esteemed Reverend will feel when the civil suits start flying and he gets named?

    If I were him I'd be keeping a very low profile about my involvement in this one.

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    Jackson called for more police

    February 19, 2003

    BY FRAN SPIELMAN CITY HALL REPORTER

    As the E2 nightclub was staying open in apparent defiance of a judge's order, its clout-heavy owners were flexing their political muscle to get more police protection.

    The pressure was applied by Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and its founder, the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The elder Jackson has known club owner Dwain Kyles since childhood and is a close friend of Kyles' father, the Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles.

    At a City Hall news conference Tuesday, Police Supt. Terry Hillard said Jackson intervened on Kyles' behalf when security at E2 became an ongoing problem last year.

    Hillard said he received a phone call from Jackson and a letter.

    According to Hillard, Jackson argued that "this was a legitimate black business and would I see what I could do to work with him. ... They asked for police to be out there during the hours of 12 o'clock [midnight until] 4 a.m., and I said we could not station a police car in front of this location."

    Instead, Hillard said he agreed to pay "special attention" to the club because of the "inordinate amount of calls" generated by E2's "high-capacity crowd" of young people.

    "That's what we did--not only with beat officers, but with tact teams," Hillard said.

    During the phone calls and letters, Hillard said Jackson made no mention of licensing issues. Nor did he urge the city not to shut down the building.

    Charles Bowen, Mayor Daley's liaison with black ministers, said he placed a similar call to Hillard last summer in response to a security request from Mark Allen of PUSH.

    Bowen said he was asked to intervene after Ald. Madeline Haithcock (2nd), whose ward includes E2, wrote an angry letter to Kyles essentially washing her hands of the establishment. Haithcock did not return phone calls.

    "An elected official normally never says, 'I'm not going to ever talk to you again about anything. I couldn't imagine why--whether there was something they had done to offend her," Bowen said. "Mark Allen asked me to talk to Kyles, and I did."

    Jackson acknowledged he went to bat for Kyles on the security issue but he, too, denied intervening on the more critical issues of licensing and code enforcement.

    "When you have a crowd, you need the presence of police as a deterrent, just as you would at the United Center. We simply asked that it be provided. After all, you're talking about 10 blocks from the mayor's house and lots of people there between 10 and 4," Jackson said.

    "I've known Dwain since he was a child. On Dr. King's very last day of his life, we were on the way to Rev. Kyles' home for dinner. I also know Superintendent Hillard. He's also a friend. He used to head my security detail."

    Jackson accused the Daley administration of trying to shift the spotlight to him in retaliation for his call for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to conduct an independent investigation of the E2 fiasco.

    "A great tragedy has occurred and now people are running for cover," Jackson said.

    Mayoral challenger Paul Jakes demanded that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald investigate, comparing the "city neglect" to the 1995 heat wave that killed 800.

    "Who made the phone calls that kept this business open?" Jakes said. "Every day across this city, mom-and-pop businesses have to dot every 'i' and cross every 't' to keep their doors open. . . . If, in fact, the business was in violation of serious building codes, why was it allowed to remain open and continue to sell liquor?"

    City officials have denied clout had anything to do with the club staying open despite a court order last July that it shut down because of building code violations.

    But Kyles has given his share of political donations and has allowed his club to be used for political fund-raisers and civic events. His partner, Calvin Hollins, is a former sheriff's deputy and precinct captain in the Southwest Side's 22nd Ward who won a pardon in 1991 after being convicted for killing a man outside a nightclub.

    Kyles has contributed $3,650 to a handful of Democrats since 1994, campaign disclosure reports show. His most recent donations were to Rod Blagojevich during his successful gubernatorial campaign. Kyles gave Blagojevich $500 about three weeks before the March primary, and another $1,000 about six weeks before the November general election.

    A Blagojevich spokeswoman said none of the governor's aides are "aware of any personal contact between the governor and Mr. Kyles."

    "I think he is among a large number of people who gave to the governor at that level," said Abby Ottenhoff, Blagojevich's Chicago press secretary.

    Contributing: Scott Fornek

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