Tragic fire at Catholic social club

Tragic fire at Catholic social club

A Portuguese Catholic social club in Fall River, Mass., was gutted by fire, killing four people, during a prayer service for a Holy Spirit celebration. The building housing the Our Lady of Light Society was misclassified as a residence and thus had never been inspected for fire code compliance. There was no sprinkler system and the doors opened inward, trapping the people for some time.

he fire, caused by a candle that ignited paper near the shrine, killed four women - two of them elderly and one with Down syndrome—as about 30 people gathered for a religious ceremony preceding the festival of the Holy Ghost. The festival is a Catholic celebration that proclaims the faith of the Portuguese and their belief in the Holy Spirit. Eleven others, including a 1 -year-old baby girl, two firefighters and elderly relatives of victims, suffered injuries from smoke inhalation or serious burns.

I’m not sure what festival of the Holy Ghost they’re referring to, but it’s possible it’s something specifically Portuguese. But it’s the personal stories of faith amid loss that are most heartwrenching.

Like the other family members in the horrified crowd Wednesday night, John Raposa acted out of love and desperation, but came up empty. His wife, Isabelle Raposa, died in the blaze at a Fall River Portuguese social club, despite his frantic attempt to get her out of the burning building. “He’s devastated. He was trying to save his wife. They pulled him through the window,” said Karen Medeiros, Isabel Raposa’s cousin. ...

Raposa’s aunt, Emiliana Carvalho, 80, of Fall River, and Christine Costa, 31, of Fall River, also were killed. Authorities would not confirm the fourth victim’s name. Witnesses identified her as Geraldine Arruda and said it was her first visit to the club. They said she had come to the service to light a candle for a boy with cancer. Medeiros said Raposa was a devout Catholic who brought the Eucharist to the homes of those who could not attend church. ...

Emiliana Carvalho, a deeply religous Portuguese grandmother, had just celebrated her 80th birthday, he said. She lived around the corner from the Our Lady of Light Society, where she’s been a member since she moved to Fall River from Portugal 40 years ago. ...

Lenny Carvalho said he watched the mother of victim Christine Costa repeatedly run into the building in search of her daughter, who had Down syndrome and was unable to escape. “The skin was coming off her arms,” Carvalho said of the mother, Eduarda Costa, who is recovering from her burns at the Providence Hospital burn unit. “She went in there three times.”

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