'It just destroys you' - Stardust survivors still waiting for answers


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21.51 11 Feb 2021


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As we approach the 40-year anniversary of the Stardust disaster, the families of those that lost their lives are still waiting for answers.

In all, 48 people died in the Dublin nightclub fire on Valentines Night 1981 and 214 people were injured.

More than 800 people attended the disco that night and despite two inquiries into the disaster, nobody has ever been held responsible.

The families have never given up, and following a major campaign in 2019, a new inquest was announced and is due to get underway in the Spring.

'It just destroys you' - Stardust survivors still waiting for answers

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

This week, The Hard Shoulder travelled to the site of the fire in Artane in Dublin to meet with some of the families who lost their loved ones in the blaze.

First, Kieran Cuddihy spoke to Antoinette Keegan, who attended the disco with her two sisters Mary and Martina, both of whom died.

She told Kieran there was great excitement ahead of the dance and the girls all went to the disco early.

She said she thought the first sign of smoke was the DJ setting off special effects before he announced a “small fire and for everyone to stay calm.”

“Then the DJ made another announcement for everyone to make their way to the nearest exit,” she said.

“We tried to make our way to the exit; we were about six foot away from the door and we were pushed to the ground.

“The smoke was coming down, thick black smoke, and the flames were lashing across the ceiling on top of us.

“Then the ceiling started falling in on top of us. I just remember my last words were, God, please help us, and then we were knocked out. We were gone.”

She said the heat from the fire was, “like being in hell.”

“That is what it was like. It was like being in hell, I’ll never forget it,” she said.

She said the next thing remembers is waking up outside screaming for her friends and her sisters before she was put in an ambulance and taken to hospital.

“When I did get into a bed, I remember my ma and da came in and they walked past my bed three times,” she said.

“I just kept trying to call out but they couldn’t hear me because I had no voice and tubes hanging out of me, I was on a life support machine.

“They eventually came over and I knew by their expression that I must have been in a bad way.”

Kieran also spoke to Antoinette’s sisters Suzanne and Lorraine for the report – as well as Maurice and Phyllis McHugh lost their only daughter Caroline in the fire and Samantha Mangan who was just four-years-old when her 22-year-old mother Helena died in the disaster.

They are all as determined as ever to get answers and find justice for their loved ones.

Samantha said she hopes the inquest will, “reveal exactly what happened that night.”

“We need to know where the fire started and what happened,” she said. “For me it is that everyone that was involved goes to prison.

“I just need someone to be made accountable for her death. She was my world. She was the only person I had. She was mother and father to me.

“They robbed me of a hell of a lot and for this to still be going on 40 years later and still fighting the same fight and still no answers. It is just heart-breaking and it is destroying.

“It just destroys you.”

You can listen back here:

'It just destroys you' - Stardust survivors still waiting for answers

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    


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