NEW YORK—Tragedy struck at a popular Manhattan nightclub Saturday, when the roof, the roof, the roof of The Tunnel caught fire, collapsing and killing 43 party people.
According to fire-department officials, the death toll was exacerbated by the clubgoers' unwillingness to evacuate the burning building.
"I tried shouting to the people on the dance floor that the roof was on fire and that they should exit the premises immediately, but they seemed unfazed by the danger," firefighter Michael Pitti said. "I just kept shouting, 'The roof! The roof! The roof is on fire!' and so forth, but they just went right on dancing, insisting that they didn't need any of our water and that we should let the motherfucker burn."
The party people's refusal to exit the flame-engulfed nightclub is widely believed to have been the result of DJ Phreek Malik's unstoppable mix of the hottest house, funk, hip-hop, disco, jungle and techno beats.
"DJ Phreek Malik was spinning in a manner so hot, these party people were willing to give up their lives for a few extra minutes on the dance floor," New York City fire commissioner Thomas Von Essen said. "Even as a 50-foot-high wall of flames surged toward them, they continued to dance, throwing their hands in the air and waving them as if they just didn't care."
As flames continued to fill the nightclub, firefighters frantically urged the revelers to keep low to the ground to avoid smoke inhalation, but the warnings were universally ignored.
"I was screaming at the top of my lungs, 'Get down! Get down, party people!'" said Garry Hodges of Ladder Company 42, "but the more I shouted out, the harder they danced."
Though an FDNY investigation is still pending, the deadly blaze is believed to have begun at 11:40 p.m., when a roof-mounted ventilation system short-circuited, igniting the motherfucker. The fire is New York's deadliest since 1978, when 117 party people burned, baby, burned to death in a South Bronx disco inferno.