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CNN BREAKING NEWS

21 Killed in Chicago Nightclub Stampede

Aired February 17, 2003 - 12:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

We're following also a breaking story in Chicago -- a tragic story last night. A lot of people were injured; 21 people were killed in a stampede effectively that happened at a night club. There's a news conference underway in Chicago right now. Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...this investigation surrounding this tragedy. We do not have all the answers -- not at this point; but we are working aggressively to gather all the facts. But we will discuss with you at this point what we know thus far; and we'll start with Fire Commissioner, James Joyce.

JAMES JOYCE, CHICAGO FIRE COMMISSIONER: At 2:23 this morning the fire department got the first call for help. It was a report of a pregnant woman down. The first fire companies on the scene realized the magnitude of the problem, called for help, called for emergency medical plan I, followed by a plan II, and a plan III, which brought 15 ambulances to the scene manned by 30 paramedics. An additional four advanced life support engine companies responded with more paramedics and more EMTs.

The supervisor on the scene asked for medical support teams. Northwestern Hospital immediately sent a medical team, as did the University of Chicago Hospitals.

As you know, there were 21 people who lost their lives. We transported an additional 30 injured, and there were an unknown number of people who went to hospitals on their own.

The list of hospitals includes Holy Cross, Northwestern, University of Illinois, Provident, Rush, Stroger Hospital, Mercy, Michael Reese, and Little Company of Mary.

Our preliminary investigation of the building shows a number of fire code violations. Our investigation will be ongoing. Most of the fire code violations that we found were related to locked and blocked doors.

We also found a propane container used as an auxiliary heating device.

So our investigation continues, along with the police department and the building department; and at some later point there will more information available.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Superintendent Miller? SUPERINTENDENT MILLER: Chicago is a city in deep mourning today, and the people of this city awoke this morning to still more shock and more grief. And this is a time of overwhelming sadness and heartbreak for all of us.

And overnight on a staircase in a night club at 2347 South Michigan, 21 of our citizens' lives were tragically and senselessly lost, pinned down by a stampeding crowd. Many others were injured, as you know.

And while these deaths were sudden, our investigation which has just begun, will not be over quickly; and with the assistance of other city department and agencies, we will get to the bottom of this.

And right now, investigation is at full tilt, and it will be very thorough. It will be a very painstaking process. As of this moment, we're interviewing the owners and looking at the history of the building of this night club. We're also...

BLITZER: We're going to break away from that news conference, continue to monitor what obviously is a very sad, tragic story -- a stampede at a night club in Chicago last night; 500 to 1,000 patrons inside.

There was an altercation, apparently, between two women. Security guards used some mace, or some sort of equipment like that to try to break it up, but the smell apparently panicked a lot of the patrons, and there was a stampede to the doors. One of the doors was locked from the outside. As a result of what happened, 21 people are dead, and we just heard 30 or 40 people are very seriously injured. How this could happen at a major night club like this in Chicago will be the source of investigations, we're hearing from the authorities.

Right now we'll continue to monitor this story.

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