Guests took refuge in bathtubs and frantically dialed 911 from their rooms as flames engulfed a Howard Johnson’s motel early Saturday, killing three people.
Firefighters raced from room to room of the motel in Bowling Green in southern Kentucky, carrying guests out on their shoulders and going back for more.
“Because the fire was so extensive when we got here, our initial efforts were towards the people that were inside the building,” said Oscar Cherry, assistant fire chief in Bowling Green. “When we got here, we had one come out through the plate glass window himself.”
The fire was first reported at 1:17 a.m. in the two-story motel, officials said. The heat and smoke trapped as many as 50 of the 75 guests in their rooms, which faced into a central lobby and swimming pool area.
“The facility was engulfed in flames when the fire department arrived,” said police Sgt. Bill Key.
“We had numerous people calling fire dispatch from their rooms, and dispatch would relay that information to us as to what rooms we had several people in,” Cherry said at a news conference. “We just basically had to hit every room anyway.”
Some guests said they had taken refuge in their bathtubs.
One guest, Ray Miller, said he tried to alert others. “I went up, I knocked on the doors and everything, but I couldn’t get them out because the smoke was too bad,” he said.
Two victims were identified as Claire Hallinan, 46, and her husband, Bernard Goldbroch, 47, of Evanston, Ill. The third victim had not been identified.
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