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THE CALAMITOUS ACCIDENT AT…

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THE CALAMITOUS ACCIDENT AT THE VICTORIA THEATRE. The fatal consequences of the accident at the Victoria Theatre on Boxing-day are given in the supplement. The result of subsequent inquiry shows beyond question that, not 15, as previously stated, but 16 unfortunate persons lost their lives. On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Payne held an inquest at St. Thomas's Hospital, on the bodies, which lay there, of William Cooper and Henry Nash, who were killed in the accident. They were both about 17 years of age, and the sons of poor parents. Among the witnesses examined were the following William Hands, the money-taker at the gallery of the Victoria Theatre, said The accident occurred about half-past four on Monday afternoon, while the earlier performance was going on. I had taken up the money I had received at the morning performance into the saloon of the gallery, when I saw the people in the gal- lery jump up. There was a cry of Fire 1" and some of the people made towards the staircase. The check- taker and I tried to stop them going out that way, and directed them to go right across the saloon and down another staircase. A gocd many of them got by us and ran down the main stairs, unfastened the door opposite my box, and then the crush took place between them and the crowd on the stairs. I did not see any fire. By a Juryman There was an escape of gas on the first landing from the ground, caused by the people as they went down jumping up and clinging to the pipe. It was not larger than a butcher's light on a Saturday night. I heard the people as they came from the gal- lery cry Fire 1" Ihe alarm was given in the boxes, and the people in the gallery took it up. The gallery staircase is about five feet six inches wide. John Croft, painter, said: I was at the Victoria Theatre on Monday afternoon. I went there about two o'clock, and sat in the dress circle, nearly in the centre. For an hour and a half or more everything went on quietly. About a quarter to four I saw smoke arise in front of the boxes, about eight or ten seats before me. I heard some persons in the boxes say, You're on fire, you're on fire," to a man whose coat was said to be on fire. I did not see the man so addressed. There was an imme- diate rush to the doors from the boxes, and I made ray escape from the house with others. The man to whom the persons near him said "You're on fire," stood up, holding his coat behind. I saw a little smoke. It was that which caused the alarm, and nothing else. Mr. Henry Young, of 50. Elli,.tt's-row. St. George's- road, treasurer of the theatre, said I was in the box lobbv, and heard a cry of" Fire which appeared to be in the boxes. The audience rose up in a mass I en- treated them to sit down, and asked the cause of their alarm. Several of those nearest to me exclaimed, There is fire; we can smell it and see the smoke." Numbers then made a rush to the principal staircase in a minute or two I convinced them there was no danger, and they returned to their seats. I had not then seen any smoke, but I smelt fire. I heard the commotion in the gallery. The cry of Fire went like an electric spark from boxes to pit, and from pit to gallery in a moment. I afterwaids examined the spot, but saw no- thing to indicate that there had been any fire. After the tumult had subsided, some p opie, of whom I made inquiries, said they saw a boy's coat on fire, io the pocket of which theie had been some fusees. No one knew who the boy was, nor whither he went. At that moment my attention was called to the disaster on the staircase, and I did not pursue the inquiry further about him. By a Juryman Every soul was out of the theatre bv five o'clock. Those who went down the main staircase from the gallery ought not to have done so. They were warned not to go that way, but the crowd were panic- stricken and could not be controlled. Joseph Holmes, a lad about 17, living at 40, Salis- bury-street, Bermondsey, a boiler maker, said I was on the top step but two of the gallery staircase, waiting for the evening performance, with William Cooper, one of the deceased, and Patrick Ilandrahan, who is also dead. We got to the theatre about four o'clock. A great many people were below me on the staircase, all waiting to be admitted. At that moment the gallery door near the money-taker's box opened from the inside, and some person who came out sa1-d, "Get out, the place is on fire!" We then all made a rush down stairs, and I was clinched" on the top of some people before me. As I called for help I saw a gaspipe on the first landing from the ground had burst. Several people were thrown down on the landing, and I among the rest. All this happened from the rush made by the people to get out. I did not notice that the gaspipe had burst till I was down. George Budd, a police-sergeant, deposed that when on duty about half-past four, outside the theatre, he saw the people who were waiting in a crowd on the stairs for the evening performance, rush backwards, saying the stairc ase was on fite. He then rushed upstairs'and | saw a great light, which was flaring out from tke as pipe on the first landing of the ground one. The° whole place was alight. In the rush he saw many of the people on the stairs who stood backwards to the ground shot down like sacks on the first landing-place, and two persons jumped over the balustrade from one flight of stairs upon the people on a lower one, in thfir eagerness to escape. He added, in answer to a juryman, that two extia constables were placed outside the theatre during the morning performance, but no extra ones inside. 0 Edward Corbet, the gas-fitter at the Theatre, described the gaspipe which burst as running across a brick wail nine feet from the floor of the last landing. He pro- duced the pipe itself, and pointed out a split in it, which several of the jury, after examining it closely, contended was an old sore. Witness differed from that opinion, and also denied that there was any explosion of gas on the occasion. He added that the light from the rupture in the gaspipe could not have been seen in the gallery, which was 80 feet above. The jury, after a few minutes' deliberation, said, through their foreman, they were all of opinion that the deceased lost their lives by accident, and that, according to the evidence, the alaun originated in the boxes of the theatre. The Coroner said he could see nothing to lead them to any other conclusion With this the inquiry ended. Mr. Carter, coroner for Surrey, opened an inquest on the remaining 14 persons killed in the accident on Thursday morning, at the Ship lavem, Lambeth. 0'

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