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100th Victim of R.I. Nightclub Fire Dies

May 6, 2003

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ In the hours after The Station nightclub fire, Anna Gruttadauria believed her daughter had died. She searched hospitals and eventually found Pamela alive, but she was so severely burned her mother could only identify her by her feet.

First listed as a Jane Doe at Massachusetts General Hospital, the 33-year-old remained there in critical condition for 2 1/2 months. She finally succumbed to her injuries Sunday night.

``I got her back and this time I knew I wasn’t going to get her back because she was suffering too much,″ Anna Gruttadauria said.

Pamela Gruttadauria, of Johnston, was the 100th person to die as a result of the Feb. 20 blaze that tore through the West Warwick nightclub.

``She was a very energetic person, very goodhearted and everyone who met her loved her,″ said her mother.

The younger Gruttadauria also was strong-willed, her mother said. ``She was just a fighter,″ Anna Gruttadauria said. ``She fought for 2 1/2 months to stay alive.″

One of Gruttadauria’s primary doctors said her injuries were severe, but he thought she had a chance.

``She was very, very ill for a long time, and her youth and kind of her overall physiological strength are what kept her going,″ said Dr. John Schulz, a burn and trauma surgeon at Mass General.

An infection that began the 25th day of Pamela’s hospitalization damaged her kidneys and liver, eventually making her too ill to hang on, her mother said.

Pamela Gruttadauria lived with her parents and was her mother’s partner for shopping trips and eating out. She adored her niece and nephew, and excelled at her job at the Holiday Inn in Warwick, her mother said Monday.

``They used to call her the Breakfast Queen. She was the breakfast supervisor. That was her domain,″ Anna Gruttadauria said.

Holiday Inn general manager Jim Petrone called her a ``consummate hotel professional.″

Petrone said Gruttadauria was hired as a front desk receptionist just before the hotel opened in November 2000. She was promoted twice, and twice won employee-of-the-month honors.

``She would win everyone over with her smile, her attitude,″ Petrone said.

Gruttadauria was the first fire fatality since March 6, when a 39-year-old man lost his battle. Schulz said it’s not uncommon for severely burned patients to die after months of struggling.

``Burns are about more than skin, and skin is about more than your outside,″ Schulz said. ``A bad burn injury makes people vulnerable to infection.″

The blaze that was sparked by a band’s pyrotechnic display also injured nearly 200 other concertgoers. As of Monday, four patients remained at Massachusetts General Hospital, one in critical condition. One patient remained at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I..

Gruttadauria’s death comes as workers are cleaning up The Station’s ruins. A crew was at the site Monday, removing chunks of concrete and other debris from the ruined property. Once the site is cleared, it will be covered with dirt to make the area safe, town officials said.

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