Volume 48, Issue 1 (January 2003)

    The Happy Land Homicides: 87 Deaths Due to Smoke Inhalation

    (Received 22 August 2002; accepted 17 August 2002)

    Published Online: January

    CODEN: JFSOAD

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    Abstract

    We reviewed all 87 deaths from the Happy Land Social Club fire. All deaths were due to smoke inhalation. The carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) concentrations ranged from 37 to 93% with a mean of 76.5%. The vast majority (97%) of the decedents had a COHb concentration over 50%. Cyanide blood concentrations ranged from 0 to 5.5 mg/L with a mean of 2.2 mg/L. Nine decedents had no cyanide detected, and seven had cyanide concentrations of less than 1 mg/L. Fewer than one third of the decedents had thermal injuries, and most were partial thickness burns involving less than 20% body surface area. Ethanol was detected in 72% of decedents with a range of 0.01 to 0.29 g% and a mean blood concentration of 0.11 g%. Cocaine or cannabinoid use was identified in 9% of the decedents. All decedents were visually identified, and all had soot in the airway extending to the major bronchi. Carboxyhemoglobin concentrations corresponded well with deaths from smoke inhalation. Cyanide concentrations did not correspond with the extent of smoke inhalation, and the role of cyanide in contributing to these deaths is doubtful. Hydrogen chloride inhalation, as evidenced by comparison of the pH of tracheal mucosa to controls, was not a factor.


    Author Information:

    Gill, JR
    New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY

    Goldfeder, LB
    New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY

    Stajic, M
    New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY


    Stock #: JFS2002227

    ISSN: 0022-1198

    DOI: 10.1520/JFS2002227

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    Author
    Title The Happy Land Homicides: 87 Deaths Due to Smoke Inhalation
    Symposium , 0000-00-00
    Committee E30