A panic was nearly averted last night at Prospect Hall, owing to the timely arrival of patrolman Chris Donnelly and special officer Dan O?Connor. The occasion was the semi-annual masquerade ball of the Bay Ridge Athletic Club. The costume of one of the merrymakers became ignited. In the excitement following several women fainted, many gowns were badly torn and several persons were trampled upon in the mad rush to leave the room.
George Stimson, 19 years old, of 99 Bay 34th Street, was one of those who attended the ball. He came in the costume of a snowman, draped from head to foot in rolls of loose cotton. Prizes were awarded to those wearing unique, fancy and comic costumes. Stimson was awarded the prize for the unique costume. Just as he was about to receive the prize, a shaving set, from the president, someone in the gallery struck a match. A spark from the match ignited Stimson?s costume and he was quickly a mass of flames.
Officers Donnelly and O?Connor at once rushed to the man?s assistance and with the help of several members of the club succeeded in extinguishing the flames. Stimson was badly burned about the face and hands and had to be treated by an ambulance surgeon from the Seney Hospital. John Corbett, 17 years old, of 229 Forty-fifth St. was also badly burned about both hands. The two men were removed to their homes in an ambulance.
When the blaze started there were cries of fire and women and girls from all parts of the hall rushed for the main exit from the hall. Many were knocked down and trampled upon. Others lost their headgear and portions of their costumes. For a time, it looked as though a panic was imminent. There were fully 400 persons on the floor at the time.
Officers from the Forty-fourth precinct were called and quieted the people. They also prevented a man from turning in an alarm of fire. When it was discovered that Stimson had not been seriously burned the dancers returned to the hall and continued their dance with their enthusiasm only slightly diminished as a result.
Prospect Hall is the largest hall in the city. Some of the dancers and spectators were great alarmed lest the hall itself should catch fire. The hall is said to be fireproof.
A short time ago a similar accident took place in Manhattan during a ball. It occurred in much the same way.