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Tennessee Prison Fire #252839

CBS Evening News for Monday, Jun 27, 1977
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(Studio) Questions arising in wake of Columbia, Tennessee, prison fire with regard to length of time to get cells opened and killing fumes from material labeled fire retardant.
REPORTER: Walter Cronkite

(Columbia, Tennessee) Officials begin investigation into fire; say juvenile Andy Zinmer could be charged with arson and 42 counts of manslaughter, because he set fire to padded cell in which he was hsed. Thick, black smoke poured over trapped inmates; state officials reveal substance in smoke. [State department of insurance spokesperson Tom COPELAND - says crime lab found high levels of cyanide in 3 of 8 blood samples tested.] Efforts being made to track manufacturer of cell padding material, approved 2 years ago by national testers as fire resistant; officials indicate that lately those tests shown inappropriate. Some inmates say guards could have unlocked doors more quickly, but in handwritten statement given officials today prison guard Jerry Dickey says stampeding visitors knocked keys from his hand and, in smoke, even firemen took 10 mins. to find them; other details cited.

Cronkite, Walter;
Rabel, Ed

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