Lost Disaster Footage Found

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Jim Kalafus

Dec 3, 2000
Giving hope that, someday, the lost Lusitania film Lest We Forget, or additional footage of the Titanic, will surface, is this recently discovered, surprisingly intact, on the spot footage of the 1908 Lake View School Fire in Collingwood, Cleveland, Ohio.


The school represented the best that money could buy, and was about seven years old at the time of the disaster.

The fire started in the basement, and very quickly cut off one of the two staircases down from the second and third floors.

The children in the school had been frequently fire drilled and, under normal circumstances, the school could be evacuated in three minutes. Half of the classrooms knew to go to the back stairs, and half knew to go to the front.

When the students who lined up in orderly fashion went to the front stairs, they were greeted by smoke and flames coming up it. At that point, order broke down, and they ran to the back staircase, where orderly evacuation was, unfortunately, about to become impossible.

The school had impressive looking entry-arches. One walked up a set of stairs under the arch, reached the front or back door, and beyond that, for added effect, were two or three more steps.

The story later went that the doors opened inward. That is not correct. Someone tripped on the pointless, decorative steps inside the door, and fell. That started a human avalanche, and children trying to climb over their fallen classmates ended up getting jammed into the pile instead, until they were inextricably jammed in a heap about five feet high, and as wide as the door.

Quite a few parents who ran to the fire left ghastly accounts of finding their children, still alive, in the pile, and of not being able to pull them out as the flames came down the hallway.

The children coming down the stairs, who saw what was happening at the door, tried to turn back, only to start a second avalanche as the children further up the stairs pushed them back.

After about a half hour, the interior collapsed into the basement, taking with it 173 children and two teachers. A rescue worker was fatally injured, and died elsewhere, for a final toll of 176.

As can be seen, a motion picture camera was onsite while the structure was still smouldering.
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