LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Tomorrow will mark 40 years since one of the worst disasters in Nevada history. A deadly fire at the former MGM Grand Hotel & Casino killed 87 people and injured hundreds of others.
8 News Now sat down with the people who not only helped fight the flames, but survived.
The MGM Grand is now Bally’s Las Vegas on Flamingo near Las Vegas Boulevard. The building still stands today, but with a history not many can forget.
Former slot mechanic Charlie Lombardo showed us gaming chips that were melted together and snapshots that captured the devastation of the deadly fire.
“It was a fireball,” he recounted.
Video from that day shows plumes of smoke rising from the building. An electrical fire in the deli restaurant spread through the casino, which did not have sprinklers.
Lombardo recalls crawling on his hands and knees to get out after hearing an overhead announcement to evacuate the building.
“I went maybe six to eight feet. I thought, ‘this is nuts,’ and I turned around and went back because it was clear behind me.”
He eventually found an exit, but not before warning colleagues in a coin counting room to get out.
“I went and pounded on the door, got their attention, and as they were opening the door, I could see smoke coming out of the air vents in that room,” Lombardo recounted.
Meanwhile, firefighters, like Stanley Grismanauskas, ran inside.
“There were never any fires like it of course, you know, that was pretty dramatic,” he said.
Grismanauskas cleared the 17th and 23rd floors. He came across bodies in the rooms and hallways.
“There was so many dead people right at the elevators that I had to move,” he recalled.
He created a path to help people escape to the roof and get airlifted out by helicopters.
Grismanauskas’ wife, Becky, also saw the bodies later that evening.
“There were a bunch of them by the registration desk, and they were literally burned to death in a motion, like running,” she said.
Becky, a former criminal investigator at the District Attorney’s Office, probed the fire, looking for building code violations to determine county liability.
“It was terrible. You know, you don’t ever forget that,” she said.
The fire led to various safety reforms, including fire sprinklers and other safety measures, becoming standard.