Deadly Smoke

Twenty-eight die in jail fire

When former Mental Patient Robert E. Pates became rowdy outside Amelia's Lounge in Biloxi, Miss., local police charged him with public drunkenness and held him in the only padded cell in the Harrison County jail. "We decided to arrest him rather than let him hurt himself or somebody else," explained William Reynolds, one of the arresting officers. Less than 36 hours later, Reynolds' good intentions turned to tragedy. A fire that may have started in the urethane padding of Pates' cell pumped oily black smoke throughout the jail, killing 28 prisoners and injuring 60 other people, including...

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