TO the roar of the crowd, Sir Ellis Kadoorie's Tytam Chief galloped home to win the Hong Kong Derby. In 1918 the race was held on February 26, and it was a beautiful sunny day. Sir Ellis and the members of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club watched the race from a luxurious ornate Victorian grandstand. Non-members either lined the railings of the racetrack or sat in temporary matshed stands, especially constructed for event. Just before the China Stakes were due to start, there was a second, more sinister roar as one of the three storey rickety grandstands collapsed like a house of cards sending 3,000 spectators tumbling to the ground. Underneath the stand were a number of cooked food stalls selling tea and dim sum. These primitive field kitchens were crushed during the collapse, littering the ground with burning coals. The broken bamboo matting burst instantly into flames and soon the whole grandstand was ablaze. A ghastly, struggling mass of panic-stricken spectators clawed and trampled over each other as they fought to escape from the relentless flames. Those who were not crushed or trampled to death in the blind panic were roasted alive by the raging inferno. The sickly smell of burning human flesh lingered over Happy Valley for days. No one knows for certain how many people perished in the horror fire. The official estimate was 600 dead and 400 injured. Almost all the victims were Chinese. A Commission of Inquiry was set up to find out the cause of the accident. As similar matshed grandstands had been around for years without collapsing and there were no guidelines in the Buildings Ordinance on matshed construction, this proved a difficult task. Fortunately it was discovered that the accident took place on Crown Land so the Commission was able to use the Public Works Department as a scapegoat.