|Stouffer's Inn Fire
Arrow Electronics Corparion
lost their 13 high-ranking executives
In December 1980, a fire broke out
in the Stouffer's Inn in Westchester County,
N.Y. , killing 26 people. Among the fatalities
were 13 high-ranking executives of Arrow Electron-ics
Inc., then the nation's second largest electronics
distributor. Employee stock options, deferred
compensation payments, survivor death benefits,
additional accounting costs, hiring replacements
and personnel relo-cation charges resulting
from the deaths cost Arrow Electronics more
than $5.5 million pre-tax, or approximately
$3 million in net after-tax, expenses
|. As a result, Arrow Electronics' 1980 earn-ings fell
from $5.5 million in the year before the disastrous
hotel fire to $5.27 million, despite a substantial one-third
increase in company revenues. Debt and losses mounted,
and it took Arrow Electronics nearly a decade to reestablish
its operating profitability
|Arrow sued the owners of the inn, the Stouffer Corporation,
and the William L. Crow Construction Company, which
had been retained by Stouffers for the planning, design
and construction of the inn, and a firm of consulting
engineers who performed the mechanical engineering and
electrical work on the inn.
Arrow alleged that in October 1980, Stouffers agreed
to rent guest and meeting rooms to Arrow for its senior
level management annual budget meetings to be held
between November 30, and December 6, 1980. Arrow also
alleged that the agreement implied that the rooms
were suitable and safe, reasonably free of fire hazards,
and reasonably equipped with devices to minimize the
danger of fire. Arrow sought $5,000,000 compensatory
damages plus $5,000,000 punitive damages for the loss
of its management; costs of recruiting new employees;
loss of books, records, and papers; death benefits
paid to the widows and estates of deceased employees;
and lost profits
|A former police executive who coordinated the investigation
of the 1980 Stouffer's Inn fire in which 26 persons
died said this week in Westchester County Court that
''we felt we had an ironclad case'' against Luis Marin.
Carl Fulgenzi, the former deputy Westchester commissioner
of public safety, said Mr. Marin, a 26-year-old former
Stouffer's waiter charged with arson and murder had
been kept under surveillance only to make sure he did
not flee. The question of surveillance, which another
officer described as intended to make certain that the
defendant ''saw them from time to time,'' is being examined
in preliminary hearings by County Judge Lawrence N.
Martin Jr. The judge has said he wants to know if there
was ''prosecutorial misconduct'' and a possible ''pattern
of deliberate violations of the defendant's right to
VICTIMS DIDN'T HAVE A CHANCE.
Business executives gathered for meetings at a hotel
here "didn't have a chance" when an electrical
fire raced through conference rooms with heat so intense
it melted walls, fire officials said.
The blaze yesterday at the suburban Stouffer's Inn
killed 26 people and injured at least 40.
"The fire was so strong, so fast, that it was
like a bomb exploding," said FRANZ EICHENAURER,
an executive chef for General Foods.
"It appears it flashed up suddenly and these
people didn't have a chance," said Purchase Fire
Chief ROBERT MAKOWSKI.
One Woman Dies.
GARY PAPARO, the Westchester County medical examiner,
said today the 26 victims worked for Arrow Electronics
Inc. and Nestle Co. Inc. One was a woman and the other
25 were men.
The medical examiner estimated it will be two to four
days before names are released.
PAPARO also said all died within two or three minutes
of the start of the fire and were killed by smoke
inhalation with carbon monoxide in the smoke.
"The bodies were cherry-red and showed inhalation
of soot deep into the airways of their lungs"
characteristics of death by smoke poisoning, PAPARO
"Fourteen of the bodies were charred badly, the
others partly so."
PAPARO said four bodies have been identified "visually,"
two by family members, a third by an associate, and
a fourth by what he caled "very characristic"
The families of the victims were gathered at the Westchester
County medical examiner's office early today, working
with authorities who were trying to identify the remains
of victims through fingerprints or dental records.
A police spokesman said he had received calls indicating
people "from California to Canada" were
at the hotel.
Second Hotel Fire.
It was the second major hotel fire in the United States
in two weeks. On Nov. 21, a blaze at the MGM Grand
hotel in Las Vegas, Nev., killed 84 people and injured
more than 700 others.
MAKOWSKI said he determined the Stouffer's fire was
electrical because the partitions in the walls melted.
"It was a very hot, hot fire."
There were no sprinklers in the area where the fire
"It is tragic that the safety codes did not require
sprinklers in such areas because they are not regarded
as guest living areas," said CARL VERGARI, Westchester
County district attorney.
Sprinklers were not required in most area of the MGM
Grand and were not installed there either.
Executives of Arrow, Nestle, General Foods Corp.,
Internationsl Business Machines Corp., Pepsico Inc.
and other companies were at meetings on the same floor
of the three-story brick building where the fire broke
The 3-year-old inn, which cost $20 million and has
366 guest rooms, is located 30 miles north of mid-Manhattan
along a hillside strip dubbed the "Platinum Mile"
because of its concentration of modern corporate headquarters.
The inn was bustling with activity when the fire exploded
at 10:20 a.m. in a second-story conference room where
officials of Arrow Electronics of Greenwich, Conn.,
were holding a budget meeting.
"We could hear noises in the hallway," said
THOMAS GOODRUM of Danbury, Conn., a General Foods
employee who was in a meeting next door.
"I heard someone say, 'Oh, my God.' Smoke started
coming over the top of our door.... We couldn't open
the windows," he said.
A man picked up a chair and heaved it at a window,
but it bounced off, GOODRUM said. Then two men picked
up a table and smashed the window and the people in
the room jumped 35 feet to a rocky slope below.
"I jumped blind," said NANCY YATES, who
was in the General Foods room. "I couldn't see
the ground when I jumped."
Bodies In Closet.
Seven bodies later were found in a closet of the Arrow
Electronics room. The victims apparently mistook the
closet door for an exit. Three others were found behind
a Christmas tree near an emergency door whose dead-bolt
lock apparently would not open.
Most of the deaths apparently were from smoke inhalation
and the 40 injuries apparently were suffered in leaps
from second-story windows.
JOHN C. WADDELL, Arrow executive vice president and
its ranking corporate officer after the fire, identified
three of the dead as company President BIDDLE DUKE
GLENN, 44; Executive Vice President ROGER E. GREEN,
42; and NORMAN KELLY, another executive. Ten other
company executives were missing.
Three others listed as unaccounted for by the Westchester-Rockland
Newspapers were GERARD BLACHETTE, 34, of Ronkonkoma,
an Arrow executive; JOHN A. PIRO, 41, of Tarrytown,
and ANTHONY CASSERTA, 38, of Creskill, N. J., both
A spokesman for General Foods said it had 11 people
at a meeting at the Inn when the fire broke out and
all were accounted for -- four treated at hospitals
and released yesterday and seven admitted for various
Computer equipment that was in the room was not activated
at the time of the blaze and VERGARI said there was
"no foundation" to reports that an explosion
of that equipment may have caused the fire.
Syracuse Herald-Journal New York 1980-12-05
|Gair, Gair, Conason, Steigman, Mackauf, Bloom &
Rubinowitz was named as Lead Counsel for the case involving
fire at Stouffer's Hotel in Westchester County. We represented
the estates of 11 members of the Board of Directors
of a Fortune 500 Company killed in the fire. Case settled
for more than $50,000,000.
|Back to Hotel