Honesdale, PA Nursing Home Fire, Oct 1971


Honesdale, Pa. (UPI) -- A fire broke out at bedtime in a private nursing home for the elderly and spread so swiftly that all 15 residents were killed before they could make an effort to escape.
The fire Tuesday night at the Geiger Nursing home near here caused the asphyxiation deaths of 10 women and five men patients, according to Robert Jennings, Wayne County Coroner, in the northeastern corner of the state.
"Some of them were found in bed and others on the floor and it looks like most of them weren't aware of what happened," said fireman Larry Martone, brother of Fire Chief Vince Martone. "There wasn't any indication that they tried to get out."
Chief Martone said the fire began in a laundry room "and had a good start by the time it broke out of that room."
"When we got there, heat was especially intense in the laundry room section," he said. "It was evident rescue attempts would be futile and instead we simply tried to keep the fire within the building."
The chief said some of the residents were sitting in arm chairs and others were lying in bed. One man was found in the hallway. They were in their late 70s and 80s he said. Some were bedridden.
Practical nurse VAUDINE LYON, the home's only attendant, was taken to Wayne County Memorial Hospital here, treated for shock, and held for observation. She was the only person in the building to escape. A fireman was treated for smoke inhalation.
MRS. JOYCE GEIGER, owner of the nursing home, was recuperating from an operation across the street at the home of her daughter, MRS. RONALD GARDAS. MRS. GEIGER'S husband, HARVEY, was in Honesdale at the time of the fire.
State police in this community near the Pennsylvania - New York border said they "expected the worst" and estimates of the number of casualties ranged as high as 20 at one point.
Jennings said the patients were preparing for bed when the fire broke out and some covered themselves with sheets and and blankets in an attempt to escape the billowing smoke pouring from the building, located on an isolated rural road in nearby Texas Township.
The bodies of four victims had been recovered by 10:30 p.m., but firemen had to use smoke ejectors to clear the gutted interior sufficiently to enter and recover the other bodies.
It was Jennings grim task to gather the bodies from the gutted building and sort out the identifications.
Jennings identified the dead as:
HORACE TAYLOR, 96, and his wife, SUSAN, 93, of Tyler Hills.
WILMA SCHIEBER, 88, Philadelphia.
WILLIAM DAVEY, 92, and his wife, GRACE, 82.
ANNA SCHMUCK, 85, all of Honesdale.
CARRIE STRATTON, 85, Aldenville.
BERTHA WITTPENN, 81, Narrowsburg, N.Y.
ROSE SILVERBLEU, 72, Forest Hills, N.Y.
MAURICE FLYNN, 83, Narrowsburg, N.Y.
ADAM KROLL, 95, Wayman.
JOHN TANK, 92, Hawley.

Simpson's Leader Times Kittanning Pennsylvania 1971-10-20


NYFD Fire Marshall's investigation

On request from Coroner Bill Jenning's who owned a jewelry store in town asked FDNY to send two Arson Investigators/Fire Marshall's for help in determination of said tragic fire. Said Fire Marshall's were named Edward F. Kelly and Joseph Kelly of FDNY. I know to Kelly's I know Ed and Joe has since passed away.