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Survivors Recall Stampede to Flee Bombed Disco With AM-Nightclub Bomb

April 5, 1986

BERLIN (AP) _ Survivors of the bomb blast at a crowded West Berlin nightclub said terrified patrons, many bleeding from their wounds, scrambled over one another to flee the scene.

Authorities said the explosion early Saturday at the La Belle discotheque killed an American soldier and a young Turkish woman and wounded 155 people including 44 Americans, most of whom were military personnel.

″The lights suddenly went out and then a deafening explosion, and the ceiling and all these cables came down on my head and I thought, ’Oh God, now I die,‴ said Renate Garrison, 35, a West German married to a former U.S. serviceman.

″There was blood all over, legs sticking out of the debris and people were walking on my head,″ said Mrs. Garrison, who lost hearing in one ear and suffered bad cuts.

U.S. Spec. 4 Larry Lampkins, 34, of Milwaukee, Wisc., said the force of the blast ″ripped the pants off my legs and there was a lot of blood on my upper body but not mine because I didn’t get cuts on my upper body.″

″I had just asked a German girl for a dance when there seemed be an electric short circuit and right afterward it (the bomb) went off, and there was so much smoke and screaming and hollering,″ said Lampkins, of the 6th Battalion in the U.S. Berlin Brigade.

Lampkins, who suffered a punctured eardrum and bruises, was interviewed by The Associated Press at the Rudolf Virchow Hospital, a West German facility.

Prince Ojong, 37, a Sierra Leone native who has lived in West Berlin eight years, said that a few minutes before the explosion the disc jockey held up a brown plastic bag and asked its owner to claim it.

″He asked us several times because no one claimed it, then he put it down somewhere,″ said Ojong.

But he and other injured patrons said they did not know if the bomb was in the bag.

″Just before the explosion, I smelled something like burning rubber,″ Ojong said. ″And then it exploded and no one could see. It was like a stampede.

″I started to go faint and just started to crawl out. An American beside me was burned red right up his arm,″ he added.

Sigrid Massalski, who suffered ear injuries and cuts, said there were more Arabs and Turks in the disco than usual. But she said she could not draw any conclusions aside from ″the fact that it (a terrorist attack) can really happen to you too.″

Lampkins said, ″I’d been going to this club for a long time and there never were any problems, so I am really shocked.

″Before, I didn’t feel like I was a target, but with Mr. Khadafy, I do now.″

He was referring to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Khadafy, who threatened worldwide assaults on American interests after the U.S.-Libyan military clash in Gulf of Sidra off the Libyan coast late last month.

Mrs. Garrison said the bomb exploded just as the disco was filling up with people arriving from other nightclubs that had closed.

″It’s always really jammed right around then,″ she said.

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