Grenfell investigator supports call for fresh inquest into Stardust fire

An aerial view of Stardust where the fire took place at a disco in February 1981

One of the Grenfell fire investigators and other international experts have thrown their support behind calls by the Stardust fire families for fresh inquests into the deaths of their loved ones.

Professor Jose Torero, who also investigated the collapse of the Twin Towers, said there had been a "dramatic evolution" in the understanding of fires since the Stardust disaster and it should be revisited. "There is no doubt in my mind that the Stardust fire is worthy of a new analysis conducted by practitioners well versed in modern fire science, fire engineering and fire investigation techniques," he said.

His comments are made in a submission to the Attorney General, asking him to order the reopening of the inquests into the deaths of the 48 young people who died in the St Valentine's disco in 1981.

His views are echoed by another expert, Professor James Lygate, who pointed out in his submission that at the time of the fire the only reference book investigators had dated to 1969.

Many advances in fire investigation were made in the 1980s and 1990s but the Keane Tribunal which examined the Stardust fire and concluded wrongly that it was "probable arson" was over by then and the two reviews that have taken place since then- in 2009 and 2017 - did not have powers to conduct fresh investigations.

The submissions form part of a 30-page application handed in to Attorney General Seamus Woulfe on Tuesday asking him to use his powers under Section 24 of the Coroner's Act to direct the holding of new inquests.

The original inquests only heard medical evidence, making simplistic findings that the victims died from burns and smoke inhalation. In their submission, prepared by human rights lawyer, Darragh Mackin, the families argue that the public interest was not served by the original inquests which did not address the how and why the fire had happened or provide any opportunity to hold those responsible accountable or to learn from the mistakes made.

The submission also sets out evidence not examined by the Keane Tribunal or the subsequent reviews. It includes the statement of local woman Brenda Kelly who made a 999 call to report a fire on the roof of the Stardust at 1.43am - earlier than the time recorded by Keane for the first call.

The location of the flames she reported also supports the families' belief that the fire began in a storeroom beneath the roof space full of combustible materials close to previously patched up faulty electrics - not in a seating area caused by a lighted cigarette or a deliberate act by one of the revellers.

Statements by a fireman, a contractor, a Stardust employee and by Antoinette Keegan who, despite being injured in the fire and losing two of her sisters, was never invited to give evidence, are also included.

MEP Lynn Boylan, who organised a nationwide postcard campaign for the families to gather 48,000 signatures in support of their application, said there was overwhelming public interest in holding new inquests. "This is an access to justice issue and a human rights issue," she said.

Antoinette Keegan said she was upbeat about the chances of a new inquest. "I feel confident for the first time in years," she said.

Actress Ger Ryan who played Antoinette's mother, Christine, in a 2007 dramatisation of the tragedy, accompanied the families to the AG's office. "I hope they get justice this time," she said.

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