Fire Escape Collapse – The Fire on Marlborough Street in Boston

A monochrome photograph by Stanley Forman which received the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography in 1976 and the title of World Press Photo of the Year. The photograph, which is part of a series, shows 19-year-old Diana Bryant and her two-year-old goddaughter Tiare Jones falling from the collapsed fire escape of a burning apartment building on Marlborough Street in Boston on July 22, 1975. The fire escape at the fifth floor collapsed as a turntable ladder on a fire truck was being extended to pick up the two at the height of approximately 15 meters.

Fire Escape Collapse in the back side of 129 Marlborough St. on Public Alley St. 

The tillerman of the first fire engine, Robert O’Neill, asked 19-year-old Bryant to lift her two-year-old goddaughter Jones to him on the roof, but Bryant was unable to do so and O’Neill jumped down to help before the ladder could reach them. O’Neill had one arm around Bryant and one hand on a rung of the ladder when the fire escape collapsed. O’Neil managed to hang by one hand and was rescued. Bryant sustained multiple head and body injuries and died hours later. Jones survived the fall as she had landed on Bryant’s body, softening the impact.

The photo originally published in the Boston Herald American, and circulated in over a hundred newspapers and led to the adoption of new fire escape legislation in the United States.

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