HARTFORD, Conn. -- Forty or more persons died under the burning "big top" of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus today during a matinee performance before approximately 10,000 persons, including many children, an eyewitness reported.
A reporter for the Hartford Courant said he had counted at least 40 bodies taken from the ruins of the collapsed main tent and laid out awaiting removal to the morgue.
All Hartford hospitals were swamped with the injured taken to them in trucks, passenger cars, buses, horse-drawn wagons -- every vehicle which happened to be passing the grounds at the moment of the disaster.
Fire Breaks Out
An eyewitness said the fire broke out in one corner of the tent, one of the largest, if not the largest tent in the world, while the attention of the audience was riveted on the shows in the three big rings.
With unbelievable speed, the blaze raced up the walls of canvas and within seconds, it seemed to those beneath, its entire top was ablaze. Then the blazing canvas began falling toward them as ridge poles and guy ropes gave way and there was a mad scramble to get out from under.