Philadelphia, PA Fraternity Dance Fire, Dec 1967

Three Die In Fire At Yule Dance

PHILADELPHIA, (AP)--"It was like everything was soaked with gas. . . A wave of flame came across the ceiling and the whole place went up."

That was how collegian Lance Kollmer, 19, of Deerfield, Ill., described the way a fire turned decorations at a pre-Christmas college fraternity dance into an inferno, killing three persons Sunday:

None others at the Delta Tau Delta house partly in the heart of the University of Pennsylvania campus were injured--mostly from jumping for their lives from second-story windows.

Five firemen also suffered minor injuries fighting the blaze which swept through the three-story brick and stone building.

Fraternity members said about 100 men and their dates were at the party earlier. Kollmer was among a score of partygoers staying until the last minute before girls' curfew at 2 a. m. He was in the room where the blaze broke out in a 14-foot snowman made of chicken wire stuffed with paper.

Other decorations at the party included "snow tunnel" made of sheets that blocked the front door. The walls of the living room, too, were covered with sheets, carrying out a snowtime motif traditional with the annual party that preceded exam week.

The victims--all of them trapped on the second floor when flames enveloped the only stairwell--were Joseph J. Growchowski, 19, a Penn sophomore, of Franklinville, N. J., Kent D. Smith, 20, also a sophomore, of Wilmington, De., and Susan Sagendorph, 17, of Philadelphia, a guest of one of the fraternity members.

Fire officials said a spark from a cigarette may have started the blaze.

Anderson Daily Bulletin, Anderson, IN 11 Dec 1967



He was a new friend. I wrote his parents and think of him 50 years later. We were 20 !