Police release witness statements on Cocoanut Grove fire
Boston Police announce that with the help of the BPL, they've made public three volumes of witness statements on the nation's deadliest nightclub fire, which killed 492 on Nov. 28, 1942. Some of the interviews were done immediately following the fires in the hospitals to which survivors had been taken.
You can read the transcripts online, from which this excerpt of a police interview of Roland Sousa, 45, of Salem was taken:
Q. Can you tell us anything as to how the fire started?
A. I came down the Grove about quarter of ten.
Q. You know the streets around there?
Q. You went in the Piedmont Street entrance?
A. Yes. I went downstairs into the lounge, Melody Lounge. It was packed, and I cruised around to see if I could get a seat, and got down the end of the stairs to the right. I was just going to sit down, there is a little palm tree in the corner and it started to get aflame, but I didn't get too excited because I had seen that before and they put it out.
Q. They had put it out on previous occasions during your visits there?
Q. What do you attribute the cause of it, the tree getting afire?
A. I don't know.
Q. You actually saw that tree afire?
A. Yes. I heard them say, "Put it out, put it out." It hit the ceiling.
Q. That is, the flame hit the ceiling?
A. Yes, started to crawl all around the joint. They didn't stop it. It got ahead of them. So we made for the stairs. The flames were on my heels and crawled right along and spread out and then it started smoking.
Q. How tall would you say those bushes or trees were in there?
A Down there isn't very high. I figure that palm tree about three or four feet.
Q. Very dry?
A. I guess so.
Q. But the first flame you saw when the palm tree was afire?
Q. It blazed up to the ceiling?
A Yes. That ceiling is made up of clothy stuff.
Q You. are referring to the drapes on the ceiling?
A. Just the ceiling. ...
Q. How much time elapsed from the time you first saw the flame until the whole room was enveloped in flames?