Terry Sutton was the only reporter at the scene on the night of the Crypt restaurant fire.
He was alerted by chance because his neighbour in Whitfield, a volunteer fireman, took off to the scene at Bench Street, Dover, exactly 45 years ago today.
Seven people, including three children and one fireman, were killed in the disaster, one of the town's worst fire tragedies, which erupted in the early hours of Sunday, March 27, 1977.
Mr Sutton, to this day a veteran Dover journalist and author, said: "I knew he had been called to an emergency and left in his car so I decided to follow him.
"When I got there they were taking the bodies out so it was quite distressing. Later that night the building collapsed and that was when the fireman was killed.
"Afterwards people in Dover were mystified as to how this fire could have happened.
"The restaurant was especially popular during the Second World War, it was the place to be, It was also the safest restaurant because it was then in a basement so that could protect you during air raids."
Nigel Collor, now a Dover town ward councillor for the area, learned about the tragedy as he was diverted on his way to work that morning.
He said: "I was driving to work from Aycliffe to the Eastern Docks and became aware of a major problem when stopped by an AA patrol.
"They had been asked to stop traffic at the York Street junction and I had to divert via Ladywell. "I was told there had been a serious fire at the Crypt.
"As the day progressed more very sad information became available especially regarding the loss of life.
"I was a customer in the Crypt a number of times it was an excellent Berni Inn Steak House."
Cllr Collor at the time worked at the Seaspeed hovercraft company's travel centre.
Rebecca Sawbridge was a 20-year-old teacher training student at a college in Streatham at the time of the disaster.
She usually came back home to Dover at weekends but this time she stayed in south London.
Her sister broke the news to her over the phone from the family home in Tower Hamlets.
Cllr Sawbridge, who is now also the area's ward member for Dover Town Council, told KentOnline: "The Crypt was a very popular restaurant in the 70s and I used to go there regularly with my brother, sister and uncle.
"When I came home the following weekend I went to Bench Street and I was shocked at the extent of the damage.
"That part of the town was a very popular place for local night life at the time. You had a big pub, the Britannia, around the corner (now replaced by part of the St James' development).
"What happened was devastating for everyone in the town because Dover was very close knit then."
After the building was destroyed and the ruins cleared the site was never built on again.
All that is left is a yawning gap between what is now the the present Europa Fish & Chips take away and the former Castle Amusements building. The latter had the Banksy Brexit mural on its flank wall from 2017 to 2019.
Cllr Collor, also a Dover district councillor, believes that the site has not been redeveloped because the Crypt, a listed building, is still there albeit below ground level so not in view.
A memorial plaque listing those who perished is a few feet away, on the wall for the slope of the town centre end of the Townwall Street underpass.
In 2019 a third ward town councillor, Graham Wanstall, co-organised the placing of that plaque.
It was unveiled at a ceremony on the 42nd anniversary, which was attended by survivors, victims' relatives and members of Kent Fire and Rescue Service.
Cllr Wanstall now says: "It was the worst mass death in Dover since the Second World War and it is important to remember.
"That's why I wanted a memorial plaque put up while people are still alive to remember it and thousands of people in Dover still do.
"I never understood why there was no plaque for it before."
One survivor's relative, Barry Davison, now says: "I don't think we should ever forget that day and I am happy that a plaque has been placed."
As a 14-year-old in 1977 he had woken up to be told by his family that his father, retained sub-officer John Davison, had been fighting the fire and was now injured but alive.
The Crypt Restaurant fire happened in the early hours of Sunday, March 27, 1977.
It had started in one of the ground floor bars and quickly spread to the upper floors through a number of voids.
It then spread through the building's flats.
The alarm was raised at 2.49am by dog walker Peter Waters, who saw smoke coming from the restaurant.
By 4am nine people were carried out of the burning building by firemen, two confirmed dead.
Firemen had gone inside to confirm everyone was accounted for but while checking, part of the building collapsed burying some of them.
An inquest found that the blaze had been caused by a mains switch to a fryer being left on leading to overheating of fractured wiring.
Coroner Wilfred Mowll recorded a verdict of accidental death.
The rescuer who died when the roof collapsed, as he searched for trapped victims, was leading fireman John Sharp, 31.
He was married with two children, living in Canterbury and based full-time in Folkestone.
Mr Sharp was posthumously awarded the Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct.
Three others who died were from the same family and who lived upstairs in the five-storey building.
These were Marion Clay, 32, wife of licensee Alec, and two of their children, Shane Clay, six, and Charlotte Clay, 18 months.
Christine McCaughan, who was Marion's daughter and Shane and Charlotte's sibling and then aged 14, escaped the fire.
A family friend who was there that night, Phyllis Conlon, 43, died in Buckland Hospital three days later and her grandaughter Janusia Ashton, five, had also perished.
Live-in nanny and restaurant worker Anita Lee, 19, was the seventh to die.
Because there had been a family party the evening before more people were staying the night at the property.
The Crypt building dated back more than 900 years to medieval times with extensions later built.
The business changed hands several times but in December 1971 it was bought by Rabb Inns.