A woman whose husband was killed in the 1981 Stardust fire knew he was dead the moment she saw the roof collapse in on the venue, Dublin Coroner’s Court has been told.
Marie Hogan, who was 24 at the time of the disaster, said she and her husband Eugene “Hughie” Hogan (24) had been due to move to Kerry the day after with their two young daughters, and were out with friends they “used to pal around with”.
Giving evidence on day 84 of fresh inquests into the deaths of 48 people aged 16 to 27 in a fire at the north Dublin nightclub in the early hours of February 14th,1981, Ms Hogan said she and her husband had been dancing when the DJ announced there was a fire. Eugene went to get their bags and coats.
“All of a sudden, the lights went out and people started panicking,” said Ms Hogan. “Everybody was pushing to get to the front. I was being pushed with the crowd.” She got pushed to exit 4 at the side of the dance floor, but it was locked with a chain and padlock.
“There was now people running everywhere, trying windows and doors and people running into the toilets. The room was starting to fill up with smoke. It was like a fog.”
The crowd then moved towards exit 5, also off the dance floor. “It wouldn’t open either. People started pushing it. Somebody was banging the door with something. It wasn’t their hand. They kept banging and banging and eventually it opened and everyone tried to get out but it was like a stampede because everyone was crushed together. A young fella who used to live down the road from me, I don’t know his name, grabbed me by the hand and pulled me out.”
She wanted to go back in to look for Eugene. “I couldn’t get back in... I was walking around telling people to get ‘Hughie’ out for me.” She got over to a security hut. “I saw the roof collapse where we had been sitting. I knew then ‘Hughie’ was dead because that’s where he had been.”
Ms Hogan was found on the Kilmore Road by friends of her mother who brought her to her mother-in-law’s house. She, Eugene and their children had been staying there before the move to Kerry, where he was to work as a cabinetmaker with her father.
She drove around the hospitals with Mrs Hogan looking for Eugene and his brother Bernard, who had also been in the Stardust.
“I think it was the Mater hospital were we found Bernard. His hands were all burnt and he had burns all down his face.
“It was Sunday when they found Eugene. The guards went to Mrs Hogan’s house and told her. My father had come up at this stage and the guards came and asked me to identify Eugene’s body.”
She and Eugene had known each other since they were 13, shortly after his family had moved to the same road her family lived on in Kilmore.
“Me and Eugene we were only really sort of starting off. Eugene was funny and would make me laugh. He was a hard worker, and he was mad about the kids. He’d always bring Andrea over to his mother’s in the buggy.”
The inquests heard testimony from nine witnesses who were unavailable read into the court record.
Several were residents living close to the Stardust at the time who saw significant flames through the roof several minutes before a small fire was first seen inside. The inquests have heard the fire was first seen inside at about 1.40am.
Patricia Cummins, who lived at Maryfield Crescent, which runs around the back perimeter of the Stardust site, said she could see “thick black smoke and red cinders shooting into the air” no later than 1.30am.
Alan Buffini, a teacher who lived at Maryfield Drive, had heard “popping noises outside like gunshot blasts” at 1.38am. He went outside and found neighbours on their garage roof looking at “flames shoot up from the roof” of the Stardust, at 1.40am.
Ann Craig, who lived on Maryfield Crescent, was woken at 1.40am by “little explosions like gunshot blasts”. She got up. “I saw a red glow in the sky and I knew it was a fire. I looked at my watch and it was then 1.45am.”
The inquests continue.
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