(Barbados Nation) Six people perished on Friday night in a blaze that could go down as one of Barbados’ worst human tragedies.
A fire believed to have started by two men who robbed the Campus Trendz store in Tudor Street, The City, engulfed the two-storey building along the busy shopping street, trapping the hapless victims within the inferno.
Confirmed dead is 18-year-old Shanna Griffith, an employee of the store who reportedly died in an ambulance en route to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Reports also indicated that five other females perished and these included a toddler, other staff and customers. The names of three of these victims were given as Tiffany Harding, Pearl Cornelius and Kellisha Olliverre.
A female supervisor also had to be treated on the scene for several cutlass wounds, believed to have been inflicted by one of the robbers. Up to press time, her condition was unknown.
According to police, the two robbers, in view of shocked customers, threw an incendiary device into Cam-pus Trendz just before 7 p.m., after taking an undisclosed amount of cash.
An eyewitness told the Saturday Sun he was standing on the pavement just yards away from the store when a young man hurriedly dashed along the sidewalk.
“Then a second fellah with something like a scarf over his face ran behind him and then I heard this big explosion.
“Within minutes I saw this big gush of smoke and the whole of the store was on fire. I have never seen anything like that,” he said.
The eyewitness added that a few people who were outside rushed to assist, but the flames were fierce, and had “literally swallowed the doorway”.
It is believed that following the cutlass attack by the robbers and the subsequent explosion, the people inside Campus Trendz panicked and ran to the back of the building, trapping themselves in the process. Over 41 firemen and six tenders fought the blaze which had threatened to extend to other buildings along Tudor Street.
Family members and close friends had kept vigil along the smoke-filled street awaiting word on the fate of their loved ones.
At 10.40 pm when the flames had subsided, fire-fighters finally entered through a hole which was dug at the back of the building, where they found a badly-burnt Griffith huddled in the bathroom.
Griffith, 18, of Pile Bay, Spring Garden, St Michael, was rushed into an ambulance, but died.
By 11.22 pm when the last ambulance left there were confirmed reports that five bodies had been recovered.
Scores of onlookers converged on Tudor Street causing numerous problems for police, prompting police public relations officer Inspector David Welch to go live on radio appealing for better behaviour.