New York, NY Ice House & Tenement Fire, Dec 1946

8 Die In N. Y. Tenement Blast; 38 Are Missing

Tremendous Blast From Old Icehouse

New York, Dec. 12 (AP)--At least eight persons were dead and 38 others, including children, were believed buried under tons of debris following a five-alarm fire early today in an abandoned ice house on Manhattan's upper West Side, which caused a five-story wall to collapse, crumpling an adjoining tenement building.

Police and firemen, digging frantically against time, removed four bodies from the wreckage and said they had sighted four more. Nearby hospitals admitted more than a score of injured. Ambulances were rushed to the scene and a first aid station was set up.

The identified dead are:

Frank Moorehead, 27 year old fireman;
Anthony Biancardi, 11;
Daniel Corrado, 25;
Thomas Phillips, 70.
All except the firemen were residents of the tenement building.

Fire Marshal Thomas P. Brophy said the cause of the fire was not known. A small rubbish fire had been extinguished the day before in the ice plant, located at 484 West 184th st.

The noise of the toppling walls caused first reports to list the disaster as an explosion.

The pile of debris from the tenement building was as high as the second story. One portion of the tenement was flattened, the other wrecked by the force of the collapse, which virtually sheared the building in half.

Blood plasma units were available at the scene. Priests from a nearby parish clambered over the debris to administer last rites as two derricks bit into the wreckage.

Police pulled from the wreckage Joseph Poper, Jr. nine years old. He had cried and shouted until help reached him. He said his brother and sister still were trapped.

Nick Sloan, 29, also was pulled out alive. He guided his rescuers by shouting and throwing stones and rubble. His wife, brother and two little daughters still were missing under the rubble.

Special emergency crews tearing at the wreckage with bars, picks and bare hands came across the pitiful remnants of gaily wrapped Christmas packages, holly and bits of tinsel.

One priest, the Rec. David Rea, climbed a ladder to reach a broken body and gave last rites. He also saw the legs and feet of two others protruding from the wreckage.

Mayor William O'Dwyer rushed to the scene and promised an investigation. Crowds watched rescue efforts from nearby rooftops and police roped off nearby streets.

Among those listed as missing were a mother, Mrs. Edith Dirica, 31, and three children, Charles, 12, Margaret, 5, and Mary, six months.

The collapse came 15 minutes after the fire broke out at 12:10 a.m. Charles Whitecroff, nearby resident, said the explosion "felt like and earthquake" and was followed by "terrible screaming of children."

After the collapse firemen heard frantic cries from the ruins and were unable to drag out a number of victims.

Nashua Telegraph, Nashua, NH 12 Dec 1946