The night Curl will not for­get

Isis Town and Country - - News -

THE Palace Back­pack­ers Hos­tel fire on June 23, 2000 stands as Childers’ worst dis­as­ter, and Col San­taca­te­rina, or Curl as he is known, re­mem­bers it so vividly it could have hap­pened yes­ter­day.

“I re­mem­ber ev­ery­thing,” he said.

“It was so foggy. I went past it on the main street about mid­night and didn’t even see it.

“There were only four of us there when we ar­rived with the truck and we thought ‘holy s**t’.

“We knew we were in trou­ble.”

Mr San­taca­te­rina led the re­cov­ery ef­fort, help­ing res­cue about 76 peo­ple from the build­ing, in­clud­ing 20 who were stranded on the roof.

De­spite his 20 years’ fire­fight­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, Mr San­taca­te­rina had never en­coun­tered a fire like this.

“It was so hot it melted the bea­cons on the truck,” he said. “We’d only had it a week at that stage.”

The fire killed 15 peo­ple, and Robert Paul Long is serv­ing a life sen­tence for mur­der and ar­son.

PHOTO: NEWSMAIL

DEV­AS­TAT­ING: An aerial view of the Palace Back­pack­ers hos­tel the day of the fire.

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