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Stardust inquests: Woman recalls holding friend’s shoulders to keep from falling and being trampled

Further harrowing evidence from survivors of the 1981 Stardust nightclub inferno has been heard at Dublin Coroner’s Court.

Fresh inquests into the deaths of 48 people, aged 16 to 27, in the north Dublin ballroom in the early hours of February 14th, 1981 are being held following a 2019 direction by then attorney general Séamus Woulfe.

Christine Carr, 16 at the time of the disaster, described holding the shoulders of a tall friend to keep herself off the ground and from being trampled in a crush in the foyer as they attempted to escape.

“It was the crush of the crowd that pulled me up further,” she said on Wednesday. “The lights were still on and I looked behind me. Under the door smoke was coming in. The lights went off so I held my breath.


“Then I had to breathe and it was like tyres. It was hot and there was substance to it. It was like ash. And I am dangling and the only thing I can move is my head – my arms and all were confined. Then I had to breathe again and then I thought: ‘This is when I am going to die.’ I remember my mouth was open, my head was going back and my eyes were rolling and I remember saying: ‘Oh mammy, daddy I am going to die,’” she said, becoming upset.

“My next memory is I am outside on all fours looking at the tarmac. I am gulping air and trying to breathe.”

She looked back at the main exit and black smoke was billowing out. Asked if there were many people around her, she said: “I don’t remember because I had become disconnected. I was walking around. I wasn’t screaming. I wasn’t crying.”

Gerard Ward, 18 at the time, noticed flames just after 1.30am. “I could feel intense heat from where I was standing ... when the DJ was saying, ‘No panic.’ I thought it was definitely time to panic.” He saw people moving towards exit 4, at the side of the ballroom.

“It seemed like an eternity” getting out. He could feel “heat and smoke coming as we got closer to the door and the queue was moving slower and slower. The lights went out before we got to the door and the smoke ... we would have been inhaling smoke before we got to the door.”

He went around the front to the main exit to look for his brother, and heard he was out. He went back to exits 4 and 5, he continued, and looked inside.

“I saw someone falling inside the doors. There was no way anyone could reach her and then somebody said ... ’she’s gone’.”

Catherine Tyrell, 18 at the time, also got out through exit 4 and went around to the front. She saw cars “trying to ram” the venue to help people trapped in the toilets to escape. “They were screaming for their lives, their heads off, sobbing and people were on fire.” She didn’t see anyone escape from these windows, she said.

A number of witnesses described the last times they saw Robert Kelly (17) from Coolock and Marie Kennedy (17) from Kilbarrack, friends who died. Ms Carr, describing Marie as her “best friend”, said she last saw her around 12.30am. “I went looking for her then because I couldn’t see her. I couldn’t find her but it was no big deal because we would have met at the table because we were going home together.”

Stardust victim tells of ‘clutching’ her sister’s hand as she was pulled from inferno ]

Mr Ward last saw Robert on the dance floor when the music stopped as the fire was first seen. “I still question myself which way did he go, which way did I go.”

He had seen Marie Kennedy earlier that day in Edenmore, he said. “She was going out with one of my best friends at the time, Paul Hutton.” They had fallen out, he said, and Paul had given him a Valentine’s card to give Marie to say sorry. Paul, who worked for B & I Line, was “away on the ferries” that night.

He saw Marie at about 11.30pm or midnight. “She was one of the ones we would have been looking for when we ran outside.” He and friends searched for her in hospitals. “We went to the Mater first, Jervis Street, Dr Steevens, back to the Richmond. We were asking about Marie and Robert ... She was the first person we heard had been identified.”

Marie was found outside the venue that night but died later in Jervis Street Hospital.

The inquests continue on Thursday.