Fire at Rome hotel
May 3, 2004
A fire broke out at a luxury Roman hotel early Saturday,
killing two Canadians and an American, fire officials said.
Lleyton Hewitt was due to arrive at the five-star Parco
dei Principi in Rome for the Italian Open just hours after
fire ripped through the luxury hotel, killing three people
and forcing the evacuation of many of the world's best tennis
American Andy Roddick was hailed a hero after helping guests
escape the blaze, which started at about 5am on Saturday.
Hewitt, whose racquet stringer was staying at the hotel,
had been expected to book in later that day. Instead, Australia's
former world No. 1 and other players were directed towards
the nearby Sheraton.
The hotel manager said Hewitt's Davis Cup teammate Mark
Philippoussis had not been booked in at the Parco dei Principi.
Hewitt and Philippoussis are in Rome for the Italian Open,
which starts today.
Roddick's Davis Cup teammate, Robby Ginepri, 21, said:
"We didn't find Andy for a while because he couldn't
get out. He was on the sixth floor, so he stayed on the
balcony of his room.
"Some people were on the seventh floor and he helped
them come down because the ladder on the firetruck didn't
reach that far. His balcony was enormous, so he let people
come in there.
"There was a ton of smoke in the corridor and you couldn't
even see more than five feet ahead of you. Everyone was
running frantically, trying to find the exit. We saw flames
coming from three different sides of the building. Windows
were shattering, with glass everywhere."
Ginepri said he had been on the fourth floor, "right
above the fire".
The victims included James Lawery, 57, from Georgia in
the US, who apparently fell as he tried to climb down from
the fifth floor using sheets tied together. His wife reportedly
used the emergency stairs and escaped unharmed. An elderly
Canadian couple, named as Paul and Bernice Busque, also
died in the blaze, which is being treated as suspicious.
Local media reports say two American women have been questioned
Up to 30 players were staying at the
Parco dei Principi, one of Rome's best-known hotels
where rooms cost up to $1200 a night.
Sjeng Schalken, the Dutch No. 1, climbed down from the
sixth to the fifth floor before being plucked to safety
by firemen using a crane, and Marat Safin, the former US
Open champion, and his girlfriend were trapped in a corridor
but managed to escape. Like many players, he was left with
nothing more than the clothes he stood up in. Roddick's
racquets are said to have melted in the heat.
Thailand's Paradorn Scrichaphan escaped after he received
an urgent phone call from his father, who was staying on
a different floor, telling him to get outside.
First person account by Tommy Haas (posted on his
Rome. What a night. At 5. 30 in the morning Red gave me
a call. He said, that I should get my passport and my money
and that there is a fire in the hotel. I could smell the
fume, already. I got dressed. I left my room and I saw an
old couple panicing in the hall way. They were looking for
the emergency exit. We didn´t know where the fire
was in the hotel. So, I ran downstairs from the 5th floor.
The smoke was getting stronger and stronger. I had a hard
time breathing. Later, we realized that the fire was on
the 4th floor. The air was getting better when I reached
the 3rd floor. And I was just happy to get outdoors and
to see Red.
Andy was waiting for one hour on his balcony
The problem was, that not all the guests could leave their
rooms early enough. There was too much smoke. So, they went
on their balconys to get help. Andy Roddick was in the room
next to me, which I found out later on. He was lucky to
stay in a suite that had a big balcony. He was waiting for
one hour. Sjeng Schalken and his girlfriend climbed onto
Andy´s balcony as well. One guest tried to rope down
on his sheets from the 5th floor and fell down. That´s
one of three people who unfortunately died this morning.
Those were terrible pictures. I felt like I was in a bad
In compare to Max Mirnyi for example I was really lucky.
All of his clothes burned down. His room was on the 4th
floor, where one of the fire sources was. My clothes smells
like fire – but that´s all. Nothing burned down.
Now, a couple of hours later I realize how lucky I was.
What, if I would have forgotten to unplug my computer of
the phone line. Red couldn´t have called me. Who knows
how long I would have slept… Well, we checked in another
hotel, I´m going to sleep for an hour, now. Later,
I´m gonna practice.
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