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Oz hostel fire was 'instant'.


THE fire that killed Irish tourist Julie O'Keeffe and 14 others at an Australian hostel began when an entire room caught fire almost instantly, a court heard yesterday.

An American forensic expert told Brisbane Supreme Court he found evidence of a "flashover" in the TV room - where the build-up of heat caused everything to ignite in seconds.

John DeHaan, an arson specialist, was brought in to give evidence in the trial of Robert Long.

Long, 38, is accused of setting fire to the Palace Backpackers Hostel in Childers in the state of Queensland on June 23, 2000, where the 15 travellers died.

Mr DeHaan told the court: "A flashover generates enough radiant heat to raise other items in the room to their ignition point. It would appear to an onlooker as a room fully engulfed by flames."

Long has pleaded not guilty to arson and to two sample counts of murdering Australian twins Kelly and Stacey Slarke, who were among the victims.

Mr DeHaan's testimony is to continue today.
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 8, 2002
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