Monday, October 11, 2010

Out Again................Remember this tragedy:

                     MONTREAL - His name is forever connected with one of the worst crimes in Montreal’s history.

But time has dimmed the collective memory when it comes to the name James O’Brien, although those old enough will likely never forget the fire he helped set that resulted in the deaths of 37 people.

On Sept. 1, 1972, O’Brien, 22 at the time, and two other men, Gilles Eccles and Joseph Marc Boutin, were kicked out of a downtown bar. They returned later to the Blue Bird Café, on Union Ave. south of Ste. Catherine St., to douse the stairwell with gasoline and set it on fire.

The blaze killed 37 people in a country and western bar upstairs from the Blue Bird. Another 54 people were injured. The victims, including a girl as young as 14, died of asphyxiation or suffocation as they tried to escape the burning building.

Three months later, O’Brien and Boutin admitted to being drunk when they set the fire. They pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree murder and were sentenced to life, while Eccles eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

When O’Brien entered his guilty plea in December 1972, he told the court: “We didn’t mean to kill anyone. We only wanted to scare the doorman” who had tossed them out.

All three were released on parole by 1983, but for years O’Brien continued to have problems with alcohol that put him back behind bars. The most recent instance came in 2008 after he was convicted of impaired driving. He had been unlawfully at large for nine months before his arrest.

O’Brien was granted day parole in May 2009, but until now the National Parole Board has been reluctant to grant him a full release while he continued to work on his dependence on alcohol.

According to a written summary of a decision made last week to grant him full parole, O’Brien, 61 and living in Montreal, has found a full-time job and has attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings regularly.

Psychological and psychiatric assessments have found O’Brien’s “anti-social acts were more consistent with a pattern of socio-affective maladjustment than a frankly anti-social structure. Nonetheless, you have taken the (lives) of 37 persons and, on multiple occasions, you have become a mortal danger to society as you have developed the habit of driving under the influence.”

When O’Brien is sober and behind bars, according to the parole board, his behaviour has “essentially been compliant and you have never been a person of particular concern to preventive security.”

As part of the conditions of his release, O’Brien must follow psychological counselling for six months. The two parole board members who heard his case were convinced this will help him manage the risk of reoffending by treating his drinking problem, the main factor in his criminality.

He is also not allowed to drive except for work-related purposes, and he is not allowed to be in bars.




Les F said...

Just in case anyone forgot what this guy was involved in, here is what he & two of his friends did,
pt: 2
I doubt the families have ever forgotten...HF&RV

Les F said...

a link to one article of the Montreal Gazette ,
Many photos from the newsppaer can be found by scrolling through the pages of the Gazette, I believe on pages 3 & 7 have more photos, I can capture them & post them later on (if I remember)

Les F said...

.Oh yes & generous jean drapeau,victimized the families again,when he forced them to settle a $9 million Dollar lawsuit for somewhere btwn, $1000 & $3000 dollars each,. Yes old generous Jean the man who wiped out neighbourhoods (both English & French ones) for Expo ,but would spend Billions on an upcoming olympic fiasco which wasn't paid off for over 30 years, wouldn't want to compensate families for any losses.What a nice man.........................Yikes!! -HF&RV-

Les F said...

List of Victims:
ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY, 25, of Waterloo, Ontario.
JOAN ROBBINS, 23, 12th Avenue, Rosemount.
PATRICIA MAHONEY, 18, Madison Avenue.
SUSAN MORRISON, 19 46th Avenue, Lachine.
SANDRA ANNETTE, 14, Jeanne-Mance Street.
SANDRA YOUNG, 19, King Edward Avenue.
KATHY GUAY, 18, St. Germain Street.
EVA TOWERS, 13, Jeanne-Mance Street.
JUDITH ANN TOWERS, 23, Jeanne-Mance Street.
LEONA DALQUEEN, 25, Logan Avenue, St. Lambert.
JOSEPHINE MacKAY, 29, 30th Avenue, Lachine.
PATRICIA JOBES, 14, Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia.
KATHRYNE McGIMPSEY, 20, Cellier Street, Anjou.
MARIAN FANNING, 24, Allard Street.
MRS. FRANCIS BOWLES, 36, Knox Street.
EVELYN HILL, 21, Campbellton, New Brunswick.
LINDA LIVINGSTONE, 19, Beliveau Steet, Brossard.
MARLENE DERY, 16, Old Orchard Avenue.
HUGUETTE NORMANDEAU, 18, Cartier Street.
IRENE SHARPAJEW, 19, Earnscliffe Avenue.
JERRY SHARE, 23, St. Ambroise Street.
NORMAN LEWIS, 25, Bourgeois Street.
EDOUARD CREVIER, 24, Rejeanne Street, Lasalle.
KENNETH TARBUCK, 19, Pine Avenue Street, Lambert.
JOHN ALLEN, 25, Desmarchais Street.
LARRY BREEDY, 22, Newman Boulevard, Lasalle.
VAL HUNTINGTON, 21, Ouimet Street, St. Laurent.
JAMES BOWLES, 39, Knox Street.
BRIAN LOLLY, 26, des Grandes Prairires Street, St. Leonard.
REJEAN LAJOIE, 19,Paul-Pau Street.
PATRICK MAHER, 24, Esplanade Avenue.
LUCAS SINOS, 19, Bloomfield Avenue.
ROBERT PETRIE, 29, Gertrude Street, Montreal North.
JOEL PETRIE, 19, Gertrude Street, Montreal North.
JAMES CAMPBELLTON, 25, 22nd Avenue, Ville Gagnon.
MICHAEL FEHRINGER, 23, De Maisonneuve East.

john allison said...

Went to the Wagon Wheel many times. My ex-wife was suppose to there with some girl friends from work. Her and her friends decided not to go there that night. She is still alive (GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR)!!!!!!!!!!!

Les F said...

We were in the '50' club in Lasalle & around 11pm we usually would head downtown,we heard on the radio of a big fire at the Wagon Wheel downtown.We.didn't know how bad until later. -hf&rv-

Sandra macDonald said...

i never knew about the fire or the club until now. So unbelievably sad. I was in Vancouver at the time and don't recall if we heard of it. I'm amazed that he only got ten years for killing 37 people, but then he did say they didn't mean to kill anyone. What did he think would happen. So many lost lives.

brian callaghan said...

Kathy, Irene, Patti and Sanda were all from Marymount High School who gathered to celebrate Irene's coming wedding. I lost fur classmates that night. I visit their graves on Mount Royal when I visit the city from time to time. There should be some sort of city memorial on the site of the club.
Brian Callaghan

Les F said...

There are a lot of people who agree with that idea Brian,.they have an online petition as well,to get the city to place some sort of memorial to them.
ps: Thanks for commenting on this particualr topic,as I just posted the other day pretty much the same news,but I was prompted by the Montreal Gazette update story,I see started this one back in October, also throughout the years the Bluebird Cafe / Wagon Wheel club topic comes up & we have posted the story several people have not forgotten your friends or the other victims,I think anyone who lived in Montreal in those days do remember this tragedy.Oddly or Sadly enough the Blue Bird Fire although being reported in a ll the papers at the time ,was over shadowed by the start of the Summitt Series Canada-Russia .......and so the fire didn't get as much focus at the time.
....................................................................Thanks for your comments..

brian callaghan said...

Do you know if there was a coroners report done and posted online?

Les F said...

I do not know that, but I can try & find out,if I can come up with any info I will post it here or at least a link... I am not sure that stuff would be made public?

Les F said...

This is all I could find for now :It only covered up until 1930......However it looks like the files are archived in the BNQ, which is a site where we have found many photos & history over the years from Verdun or Montreal etc etc ,so i will do a search there & see what I can find...........
Can Bull Med Hist. 2008;25(2):433-60.
[Investigations of the coroners of the district of Quebec, 1765-1930: a source in Candian medical and social history].
[Article in French]
Lessard R, Tésio S.
SourceCentre d' Archives de Québec, de Bibliothéque Archives nationales du Québec.

The coroner's office, created in England in 1194 to hold inquiries into suspicious or violent deaths, was established in Quebec and Montreal in 1764. From 1765 to 1930, more than 16,000 reports, housed in the provincial National Library and Archives, were documented for the district of Quebec. A database was created to facilitate access for those interested in past customs, in provision of medical care, in attitudes towards death, in crime, in the effects of industrialization, and in new ways of production. This paper summarizes the most important elements of this database, gives a chronological account of the office of the coroner, describes the documents, and show the connection between the inquiries of the coroners and the socioeconomic events of the region.

Les F said...

Ok and now here is a little more info but only up until 1954, perhaps the other files are too new for realease??
Coroners' inquests in the judicial districts of Beauce, 1862-1947, Charlevoix, 1862-1944), Montmagny, 1862-1952, Québec, 1765-1930, and Saint-François (Sherbrooke), 1900-1954
•Coroners' inquests: about the source

•About the database

•Coroners' inquests in the judicial district of Charlevoix

•Coroners' inquests in the judicial district of Saint-François (Sherbrooke)

•Search form
..I doubt this link will provide a direct link,I suspect you will have to shorten the URL and just start over in the BNQ site itself:

Les F said...

[1 septembre 1972]

Un incendie au club Blue Bird, à Montréal, entraîne la mort de 37 personnes et des blessures à 53 autres.

Une altercation survenue le soir même entre trois clients et le portier du club serait à l'origine de l'incendie criminel qui a détruit le Blue Bird, un cabaret situé sur la rue Union, à Montréal. Les trois accusés seront reconnus coupables d'avoir causé la mort de 37 personnes lors de l'incendie.

En référence: La Presse, 2 septembre 1972, p.1.
En complément: Mémorial du Québec, Tome VIII, 1966-1976, Montréal, éd. du Mémorial, 1979, p.235-241.

Linda Nagy said...

There is going to be a Memorial this August 31st @ Philips Square in Montreal this year and a candle light vigil planned for September 1st. :here is a link to the group that is planning this.!/groups/232004810241523/ Sincerely Linda