Kansas City, MO Explosion Wrecks Playhouse, June 1925
EXPLOSION AND FIRE WRECK KANSAS CITY PLAY HOUSE; NUMBER OF DEAD UNKNOWN.
HUNDRED PEOPLE IN THEATER AT TIME OF DISASTER, BUT DEATH LIST CANNOT BE DETERMINED UNTIL SEARCH OF RUINS IS MADE; EXPLOSION BELIEVED DUE TO GAS LEAKAGE.
Kansas City, Mo. -- (AP) -- Firemen and an army of workers from the street department Friday began searching the smoldering ruins of the Gillis theater for bodies of persons believed to have lost their lives when a fire and an explosion wrecked the theater and more than a dozen stores here late Thursday night.
Several hours after the search of the debris started no bodies had been recovered. The only known death to result from the catastrophe was that of JOHN HOGAN, fireman, who was killed while enroute to the scene when a fire truck overturned.
ALEXANDER HENDERSON, fire chief, after a survey of the situation, said he believed that not more than six or eight bodies would be found and perhaps not that many.
A cook in a restaurant adjoining the theater, which was entirely demolished, is the only one police know of to be unaccounted for. It was estimated that approximately a hundred persons were in the show-house at the time of the blast. How many of them escaped was not known.
The exact cause of the explosion is undetermined. Police believe the blast occurred, however, in a restaurant located in the Gillis building from escaping gas.
Fire Chief HENDERSON estimated that it would require at least two days to clear away the wreckage.
Early Friday firemen had organized a volunteer party of 100 men to search the smouldering wreckage for bodies.
The explosion came with startling swiftness at 11 o'clock. Flames enveloped the structure almost immediately following the blast and the roof and the follors of the adjacent building, constructed 42 years ago as the city's finest play-house, collapsed.
Those who were able to make their way out of the building did so almost miraculously, according to eye witnesses.
Exits of the theater, which were located on the second floor, were few. There was the main entrance and a rear exit behind the state.
Stories gathered from survivors indicated the front exit must have been cut off by the collapse of the theater floor. But none of those who reached safety by that avenue could tell clearly how he got out.
Fire Chief ALEXANDER HENDERSON said 30 or 35 persons must have been trapped in the building, basing his opinion on the fact that it would have been impossible for all to escape in the short interval between the explosion and the collapse of the roof.
The midnight show had just started and a love scene was playing on the screen when the blast rocked the building, bringing down the balcony as the floor gave way, according to survivors.
Thirty minutes after the explosion the south wall of the theater fell, crushing several small stores.
A negro porter in a restaurant on the ground floor of the building said that half an hour before the explosion he detected gas fumes in the basement.
LaCrosse Tribune Wisconsin 1925-06-26
SEARCH OF THEATRE RUINS FAILS TO ADD TO NUMBER OF DEAD.
Kansas City, Mo., June 27. -- Definite figures on the toll of lives taken by the Gillis theater fire district were no nearer this morning than when firemen began to dig into the debris under SANDERSON'S restaurant beneath the theater beuilding yesterday afternoon.
One body taken out yesterday afternoon was identified as that of HARRY LIKELY, night cook in the restaurant.
The identified dead now are LIKELY and JOHN HOGAN, the fireman killed on his way to the blaze.
The four injured in hospitals were rapidly recovering today.
Working all night under great lights strung over the ruins, the firemen had made little impression on the wreckage of the theater proper or the entrance to the restaurant, under which it is believed that most of the bodies will be found if the death toll increases.
DR. CHARLES S. NELSON, deputy coroner, this morning, estimated that there were 17 missing persons who might have been in the fire. These were eleven white men and six negroes, about who inquiry was made.
Work today centered on reaching the ruins beneath the auditorium and those of the restaurant entrance.
Logansport Pharos-Tribune Indiana 1925-06-27
THIRD BODY IS TAKEN FROM THEATER DEBRIS.
Kansas City, June 27. -- The body of FRED WARNER, a waiter employed in the building, was recovered into today from the ruins of the Gillis theater which was destroyed by explosion and fire here Thursday night. It is the second taken from the ruins.
Firemen late tonight took a third body from the debris.
Logansport Pharos-Tribune Indiana 1925-06-28