Wednesday, December 17, 2014
On May 15, 1929, a fire at Ohio's Cleveland Clinic claimed 123 lives.
The blaze started in the basement where an exposed light bulb ignited nitrocellulose x-ray film, releasing poison gas and triggering a pair of explosions.
"Rescuers found evidences of the suddenness with which disaster came to those inside the building on every hand," the Associated Press reported.
Battalion Fire Chief James P. Flynn and his driver, Louis Hillenbrand, dropped a ladder to a fourth-floor landing from the roof and discovered 16 bodies in a stairwell.
"One woman smashed a third floor window and was preparing to leap as firemen spread a life net," AP said. "She stood poised, the amber gas swirled about her shoulders, and she collapsed, falling inside the building."
Ernest Staab, a Cleveland police officer assigned to No. 1 Emergency Wagon, sacrificed his life to make 21 rescues.
Staab "collapsed after carrying out his twenty-first burden" and "followed those he rescued to an emergency cot and died a few hours later," AP said.
Dr. John Phillips, a founder of the clinic, was another of the dead.