Thursday, March 23, 2006 - The headlines of the Voice Newspaper of March 25, 1972 said it all:
Disaster At Teachers’ College.
It was thirty five years ago today that two hundred and fifty people plummeted fifteen feet to the ground that Thursday evening, when the auditorium floor of the Saint Lucia Teachers’ Training College suddenly collapsed during a Miss Complex Beauty Contest staged by the students.
The Voice Newspaper described the event:
It was a gruesome sight as the victims landed on top of each other, their desperate screams for help renting the air. Many lay helpless under a massive pile of smashed lumber, broken chairs and other debris. There was blood everywhere.
Those students who were in another part of the building when the tragedy occurred saved the day. Had it not been for their quick action in rushing to the rescue, the result might have been much worse.
Mr. Vernon Warner, one of the judges of the beauty contest, worked like a real-life hero. Car-owners who were able to drive soon started transporting the injured to Victoria Hospital.
Within half an hour of the accident all the victims had been transported to the Victoria Hospital where of the two hundred and fifty only six were hospitalized, among them was Mrs. Marjorie Thomas, wife of Mr. Leyton Thomas the then Minister of Education. Ironically the same building is now called the Leyton Thomas Building and houses the renamed Division of Teacher Education and Management Studies.
The Crusader Newspaper issue of March 25, 1972 also reported on the disaster but added this:
This disaster precipitates the need for establishing an Authority or Committee for the prevention of accidents in public places or places of assembly.
Thirty five years later the National Emergency Management Organisation commenced moves to improve public safety at large events. Because of the size of the audience that are drawn to such facilities the generic term used is MASS CROWD EVENT. Though there are mechanisms for the Licensing of such events, there is an increasing need to coordinate the Licensing of such Shows, and so the Government of Saint Lucia through the Membership of NEMO began circulating the Guidelines in 2005.
As we remember the events of March 23, 1972 and express relief that there was no loss of life, the NEMO Secretariat repeats its call for Saint Lucians to read the Mass Events Guide to ensure that such incidents don’t repeat.