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8 Killed, 16 Critically Hurt in Tenn. Nursing Home Fire

September 27, 2003|From Associated Press

NASHVILLE — Bedridden patients screamed for help and firefighters carried the elderly and disabled down ladders and stairs as a fire damaged portions of a four-story nursing home with no sprinkler system, killing eight people and critically injuring 16.

The home was exempt from a state law requiring sprinklers, but firefighters said such devices probably would have saved lives.

The fire broke out late Thursday in a second-floor room of the NHC Healthcare Center, near downtown Nashville.

The cause was under investigation. Officials said there was no immediate evidence of arson.

Most of the 116 residents were carried out by firefighters or rolled in wheelchairs to safety. Few patients could walk, and elevators were disabled in the fire, which filled the home with smoke.

Some of the residents were carried down ladders on backboards. Some had oxygen tanks, and one was on a ventilator.

The evacuated residents were taken to a terrace outside and then to four hospitals. It took firefighters about an hour to contain the blaze, which was confined largely to one end of the building.

Among the victims was Thelma Connelly, the 96-year-old mother of District Fire Chief Bobby Connelly, who was off duty but went to the scene, said Deputy Fire Chief Kim Lawson.

"You can imagine what he's going through," District Chief David Warman said.

Eighty-two residents and one employee were treated at hospitals for burns and smoke inhalation.

The dead were all women: Connelly; Margaret H. Dilbeck, 80; Alma I. Gordy, 85; Dorothy M. Lee, 76; Isabel Lollar, 85; Priscilla B. Polk, 82; Anna Tolston, 86; and Lydia Bodnar, 86.

The hospital-style bed in the room where the fire broke out was removed by investigators, officials said. The bed had an electrical mechanism that raised and lowered it.

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