Island nightclub fire
At least 96 killed in nightclub inferno
WEST WARWICK, Rhode Island (CNN) -- Ninety-six people died
Thursday in a fast-moving fire at a Rhode Island nightclub,
Gov. Don Carcieri said Friday afternoon, adding that only
a handful of the bodies have been identified.
With 35 people in critical and serious conditions, the
governor said it would not surprise him if the death toll
were to rise above 100.
Because some bodies are badly burned, Carcieri said, family
members might have to wait for DNA testing to learn their
loved ones' fate.
Dorothy Palazzo is searching for her cousin, who attended
the music show at The Station concert club in West Warwick.
"We're hoping that he walks in that door," she
said. "He's got a great wife, beautiful children waiting
for him to walk through the door and come home."
Other families made the rounds of hospitals and morgues,
several showing photographs of the missing in hopes that
someone saw them escape the club.
Pyrotechnics used by the heavy metal band Great White ignited
the inferno. Owners of the nightclub have said they did
not know the band planned to use fireworks, but Great White
lead singer Jack Russell said, "Our tour manager set
that up with the club." (Full story)
At least 187 injured people were taken to nearby hospitals,
where 81 were admitted, the governor said. Ten were flown
to the nearest burn centers in Massachusetts.
Investigators are sifting the charred wreckage for personal
identification and belongings that might help identify the
victims, he said.
Families are being asked to bring photographs of the missing
to a crisis center that has been set up at the nearby Crowne
Plaza Hotel. Grief counselors and clergy members are on
hand to help families.Carcieri said 80 people who escaped
from the club have come forward and that all 81 hospitalized
victims have been identified.
Carcieri praised fire and rescue crews, saying the first
responders "probably saved as many as 100 lives by
pulling people out of there."
Fire Chief Charlie Hall said because the wooden structure
was small and was built before 1976, it was not required
to have a sprinkler system. But when asked if one would
have helped the situation, he said, "If there were
sprinklers in this building, we wouldn't be here right now."
Great White did not have the required city permit for a
pyrotechnics display, officials said Friday. Rhode Island
Attorney General Patrick Lynch said he was dealing with
"a potential criminal investigation."
Carcieri said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
was involved in the investigation.
It was the second fatal incident at a U.S. club in recent
days. Monday, 21 people died and more than 50 were injured
in a nightclub stampede in Chicago, Illinois, that apparently
began when a security guard used pepper spray to break up
a fight. (Latest on Chicago incident)
"The building was well involved inside of three minutes,"
Initially, people stood and watched the fire or casually
made their way toward exits. Then panic broke out, according
to videographer Brian Butler, who was taping the rock concert
for a story on nightclub safety.
Band members jumped off the stage and joined the crowd,
heading toward the exit.
Flames engulf the nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island.
Fire chief: Smoke hid exit signs
Hall said all of the building's four exits were functioning
and that most of the bodies have been recovered from near
the building's front entrance. The fire was "the main
contributing factor" to their deaths.
"Human nature being what it is, they tried to go out
the same way they came in" and were trapped, Hall said.
"That was the problem."
He said the other three exits had signs with battery-powered
lights, but people couldn't see them.
"The reason for the total darkness was the density
and the intensity of the smoke that was produced by the
burning materials: the panel, the soundproofing, suspended
ceiling and so forth," the fire chief said.
Hall also said the building's capacity was 300 and that
fewer people than that were in the club. The Station passed
a fire inspection December 31, 2002 with minor violations
that were corrected, Hall said.
One of the band's guitarists, Pennsylvania native Ty Longley,
is among the missing in the fire's aftermath. He had been
with the band for three years.
"We're still looking for him," Russell said Friday
morning. "I'm going to check the hospitals. That's
my main concern right now, is to find him. After 25 years
in show business, nothing like this has ever happened.
"What do you say? Gee, I'm sorry? That just doesn't
cut it," the lead singer said. "There're no words
to express how I feel right now. I'm devastated."
A statement issued by Great White, Manic Music Management
and Knight Records said: "Our thoughts and prayers
are with those that have passed away, those that are suffering
and to the families and friends thereof. There has been
a tragic accident affecting a lot of people in a terrible
way, we are deeply saddened as to what has happened."
Attorney Kathleen Hagerty, representing club owners Michael
and Jeffrey Derderian, said the fire was "an absolute
tragedy" and that the brothers were "devastated
and in shock."
Updated at 8 May 2006
Sentencing hearing begins for manager in R.I. club fire
PROVIDENCE -- Relatives of the 100 people killed three
years ago in The Station nightclub disaster will have a
chance to share their pain this week in open court -- in
front of the man whose pyrotechnics sparked the blaze.Daniel
Biechele, 29, will be sentenced in an unusual three-day
hearing, starting today, that is expected to showcase emotionally
wrenching testimonials from the victims' families.
Biechele was tour manager for the rock band Great White
when he set off the display during a Feb. 20, 2003, concert,
igniting a fire that swiftly enveloped the crowded nightclub.
In addition to the 100 killed, 200 people were injured.
Biechele will be sentenced under a plea deal Wednesday
to serve up to 10 years in prison, and prosecutors are recommending
the maximum possible term. His lawyers are asking for community
service instead of jail time. He was to have been the first
of three men charged in the fire to stand trial. Instead,
he became the first to accept responsibility by pleading
guilty in February to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Updated at 10 May 2006
Band manager gets 4 years in fatal club fire
Daniel Biechele pleaded guilty to role in 100 deaths in
2003 R.I. blaze
A former rock-band manager whose pyrotechnics caused a
nightclub fire that killed 100 people was sentenced Wednesday
to four years in prison.
Daniel Biechele, 29, could have gotten as much as 10 years
behind bars under a deal he struck with prosecutors in February,
when he pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter.
He also received an 11-year suspended sentence and three
years of probation.
“The greatest sentence that can be imposed upon you
has been imposed upon you by yourself,” Superior Court
Judge Francis Darigan Jr. told Biechele, drawing sobs and
groans from some of those in the courtroom. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The sentence came after two days of anguished testimony
from the victims’ families, who told of college graduations
they would never see, grandchildren they would never hold
and grief so powerful that they could not get out of bed
in the morning and looked forward to death to be reunited
with their loved ones.
Sparks ignited foam in 2003 blaze
Biechele was the tour manager for heavy metal band Great
White when on Feb. 20, 2003, he lit a pyrotechnics display
that ignited highly flammable foam that lined the walls
and ceiling of The Station nightclub in West Warwick. The
foam was used as soundproofing and was placed there by the
owners after neighbors complained about noise from the club.
Many of the 100 people who were killed that night either
were quickly overcome by fumes emitted by the foam or became
trapped in a crush at the front door.
More than 200 others were injured in the fourth-deadliest
nightclub fire in U.S. history, and the worst fire in state
Earlier Wednesday, Biechele’s attorney, Thomas Briody,
argued that his client deserved mercy — in the form
of community service, with no prison time — and feels
immense sorrow for his role in the blaze.
“I ask you to consider this: Dan Biechele is the
only man in this tragedy to stand up and say I did something
wrong,” Briody said. “He’s the only man
to say, ‘I apologize.”’
Relatives Of Station Fire
Victims Tell Their Stories
to Club Fires