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Analysis of Carboxyhemoglobin and Cyanide in Blood From Victims of the Dupont Plaza Hotel Fire in Puerto Rico



Barbara C. Levin, P R. Rechani, F Landron, J R. Rodriguez, L Droz, F M. deCabrera, S Kaye, J L. Gurman, H M. Clark, M F. Yoklavich


A fire that occurred during the afternoon of December 31, 1986 in the Dupont Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico claimed 97 lives and injured more than 140 individuals. This fire has been considered one of the worst hotel fires that has occurred in this century and has been compared to the MGM Grand Hotel fire in Las Vegas, NV which claimed 85 lives in 1980 and the Winecoff Hotel Fire in 1946 which took 119 lives. Most of the articles and reports that have been written about the Dupont Plaza Hotel fire have described the findings of the investigation by the National Fire Protection Association who worked in cooperation with the U. S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the National Bureau of Standards and Puerto Rican authorities. They found that the fire was incendiary origin and was started in a stack of new furniture that was stored in corrugated boxes in a ballroom. This furniture, which consisted of dressers (constructed of wood and particle board) and soft beds containing foam mattresses, occupied an area of approximately 5.5 x 9.4 x 1.8 meters (18 x 31 x 6 feet). This initial fuel load plus other materials which may have become involved in the fire were sufficient to cause the ballroom to undergo flashover and produce a flame front that rapidly spread throughout the lobby and casino area. An enginering analysis of the early stages of this fire estimated that the flame front spread through the 437 m2 (4700 ft2) casino (where most of the casualties were found) in 20 to 30 seconds. Both exits from the casino became blocked when the lobby area also filled with smoke.
Journal of Forensic Sciences
Publisher Info
, -1


blood, cyanide, hotels, carboxyhemoglobin, toxicology, carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, death


Levin, B. , Rechani, P. , Landron, F. , Rodriguez, J. , Droz, L. , Decabrera, F. , Kaye, S. , Gurman, J. , Clark, H. and Yoklavich, M. (1990), Analysis of Carboxyhemoglobin and Cyanide in Blood From Victims of the Dupont Plaza Hotel Fire in Puerto Rico, Journal of Forensic Sciences, , -1, [online], (Accessed April 12, 2024)
Created January 1, 1990, Updated February 17, 2017