December 4th, 1980 was a cold, clear morning at the Westchester Stouffer’s Inn. The third-floor conference center was filled with meetings by several unrelated companies – Nestle, PepsiCo, General Foods, The United Brewers Academy, and Arrow Electronics. Meetings were scheduled to start at 10am. Approximately 95 meeting attendees were on the third floor conference center. 26 of those would lose their lives before 10:30am.
At approximately 10:13am, a fire started on a four-foot square of carpeting at the juncture of three conference rooms. The conflagration quickly spread, with the aid of an accelerant, through the adjoining corridors.
The earliest witnesses of the fire at approximately 10:20am, in its early phases. Alarms in the hotel went off some moments afterward, and the local fire department was called at 10:23am. Firefighters would arrive at 10:28am. By this time, the fire had spread considerably, and rescue efforts were hampered by fire and smoke in the north and west corridors.
All 13 employees of Arrow Electronics died almost immediately in or just outside of the windowless, single-exit Haight room, which had filled with smoke and unbearable heat. Six of these died in a closet, which they apparently had mistaken for a fire exit. Five more died in the meeting room area. Two of Arrow’s employees attempted to escape the Haight room, but only made it a few steps outside of the door before the fire and smoke overwhelmed them. Smoke and the associated poisonous gasses flooded into the room when the door was left open. Firefighters were initially unable to go to the door of the Haight room, due to smoke and unbearable heat, and entered the room by breaking through the gypsum board wall by the stairway exit. By the time they opened the wall, all the room’s occupants had perished.
Six occupants of Disbrow Room A attempted to escape through the north corridor, but succumbed to the smoke as the fire ran wildly through the conference center. Two additional victims perished inside Disbrow Room A. Several occupants of the Disbrow A meeting were able to escape, al though several had fire and smoke-related injuries.
Pepsico employees, meeting in Disbrow Room B, all survived. They heard a commotion from Disbrow Room A through the partition, and were able to escape through the stairs by the loading dock.
Five more people died in The Commons, two apparently had tried to escape using the locked doorways that exited to “The Promenade,” a walkway overlooking the pool one story below. These doors were not technically fire exits, but could have provided life-saving moments of breathable air if left unlocked.
Names of the 26 victims:
|James Feete, Huntington, NY|
|Louis Backe, NC|
|Gerard Blanchette, Lake Ronkonkoma, NY|
|Brian Boyd, Fort Lauderdale, FL|
|James E. Carter, Medina, OH|
|Anthony M. Caserta, Creskill, NJ|
|Daniel J. Donnelly, Westport, CT|
|Stephen Feldman, Hartsdale, NY|
|Steven Fenster, Stamford, CT|
|Michael H. Fisher, Somers, NY|
|B. Duke Glenn, Jr., Greenwich, CT|
|Charles Gramling, Dunwoody, GA|
|Roger E. Green, Kings Point, NY|
|A. Broadus Hamilton, Reading, MA|
|Vance Juday, Greenwich, CT|
|Norman M. Kelly, Manhattan, NY|
|Robert J. LeMay, Buffalo, NY|
|Christopher Mader, Rosemont, PA|
|George Molinaro, Satellite Beach, FL|
|Andrew W. Perine, Ridgefield, CT|
|John Pirro, Tarrytown, NY|
|Q. Edward Rodrigo, Agincourt, Ont.|
|Gary J. Summey, Bethel, CT|
|Lawrence Unger, Houston, TX|
|Robert C. Washburn, Mahopac, NY|
|Judith D. Wilson, Yonkers NY|
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1980 Stouffer’s Inn fire memorial