SHEBOYGAN — It has been 40 years since two people were killed in a Downtown Sheboygan hotel fire.
A blaze broke out at the three-story, 25-room Kneevers Hotel at South Water Street and Pennsylvania Avenue on February 12th, 1978. Today, Budget Auto Sales occupies the spot of the former hotel.
The body of 53-year-old Walter Thuel was found burned beyond recognition in a second floor corridor. 66-year-old Alfred Lorenz died of apparent smoke inhalation in a third-story room. Eight other people were hospitalized. The early morning fire destroyed the 90-year-old landmark hotel.
Terry Spradau, then 24, had saved several people from the burning hotel and as a result, he received a commendation from the Mayor and the Governor for heroism. 20 years later in 1998, he Spradu would be shot dead at his home in Des Moines, Iowa. He was a victim of an armed robbery.
The fire was the first multiple fatality fire in Sheboygan County since February 1st, 1971 when four children were killed in a house fire.
The hotel was owned by Joe Rutkauskas Sr. Wiring was to blame for the blaze.