Summerland fire victims remembered on 40th anniversary

A ceremony was held to unveil the memorial

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Fifty people who died in the Summerland fire disaster have been remembered 40 years after the Isle of Man tragedy.

About 3,000 holidaymakers were inside the leisure complex in Douglas when fire swept through the building on 2 August 1973.

The disaster led to changes in fire regulations in the Isle of Man, the UK and around the world.

A permanent memorial inscribed with the names of the victims was unveiled at a service in Douglas on Friday.

Douglas Council leader David Christian described it as "one of the most tragic events in Manx modern-day history".

Start Quote

There was an explosion and then a huge wall of flames from the floor to the ceiling came towards us at great speed”

End Quote Sally Naden Summerland survivor
No prosecutions

The victims came from across the UK and included men, women and children - 11 of the dead were under 20 years of age.

Five members of a single family from Essex were killed, including 10-year-old twin girls, and 17 children lost one or both parents in the disaster.

The fire, sparked by three boys smoking in a disused kiosk next to a crazy golf course, gutted the leisure complex within minutes.

One survivor, Sally Naden, a dancer at the complex, remembers watching a "waterfall of fire" sweep towards her.

She said: "There was an explosion and then a huge wall of flames from the floor to the ceiling came towards us at great speed."

No-one has ever been prosecuted, although it emerged some fire exits were chained and padlocked.

A public inquiry concluded there were "no villains" but said a combination of "human errors, a reliance on the old-boy network and poor communications" led to the disaster.

New building regulations introduced after the disaster included ensuring emergency exits are never locked and stipulating that children in entertainment venues should always be accommodated on or near ground level.

'Permanent scar'

At Summerland, many children were on upper floors which meant parents ran upstairs rather than heading towards the exit.

According to the Summerland Fire Commission report, the disaster will "remain a permanent scar in the minds of Manxmen".

The memorial service organised by Douglas Borough Council will start at 19:45 BST at the foot of Summer Hill, close to the former Summerland site.

Archdeacon of Man, the Venerable Andrew Brown, will lead the service before a minute's silence at 20:01 BST - the exact time the first call was received by the emergency services.

The new granite memorial will sit alongside a stone laid in August 1998 to mark the 25th anniversary of the disaster.

Summerland was rebuilt on a smaller scale in 1976 and reopened in 1978. It was demolished in 2005.

The Isle of Man government is currently in discussions with an off-island developer over the vacant site.

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