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Old 02-21-2003, 02:11 PM   #1
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RI Concert Fire

Everybody hear about this? F'ing scary.

R.I. Nightclub Fire Kills at Least 85
The Associated Press
Feb 21 2003 2:22PM

Emergency medical workers transport a patient on a gurney from Kent Hospital, in Warwick, R.I.
CNN: Scenes from Fire

WEST WARWICK, R.I. (AP) - A nightclub erupted in a raging fire during a rock band's pyrotechnics display, killing at least 85 people and injuring more than 160 others as frantic mobs rushed to escape. Club officials said Friday the special effects were used without permission.

The death toll rose as firefighters searched through the charred shell of the single-story wood building. Town Manager Wolfgang Bauer said the number of dead had reached 85 by Friday afternoon.

``They are still pulling bodies out,'' Gov. Don Carcieri said after rushing back to the state from a Florida vacation. ``This building went up fast - nobody had a chance.''

The fire came less than a week after 21 people were killed in a stampede at a Chicago nightspot.

The '80s hard rock band Great White had just started playing Thursday night when giant pyrotechnic sparklers on stage began shooting up and ignited the ceiling above them and soundproofing near the stage. Some in the crowd said they thought it was part of the act, but the fire quickly spread through the low-ceilinged building, filling it with thick, black smoke.

The entire club was engulfed in flames within three minutes, Fire Chief Charles Hall said. Capacity at The Station Concert Club was 300, but Hall said fewer people than that were inside the building.

Robin Petrarca, 44, was standing within a few feet of a door, but said she couldn't see the exit because of the billowing smoke. In the rush to escape, she fell and was trampled, but made it out.

``There was nothing they could do, it went up so fast,'' she said.

Hall said the club recently passed a fire inspection, but didn't have a city permit for pyrotechnics. The building, which is at least 60 years old, was not required to have a sprinkler system because of its small size.

The pyrotechnics were used without permission from the club, said Kathleen Hagerty, a lawyer representing club owners Michael and Jeffrey Derderian.

``No permission was ever requested by the band or its agents to use pyrotechnics at The Station, and no permission was ever given,'' she said.

The band's singer, Jack Russell, said the manager checked with the club before the show and the use of pyrotechnics was approved. And Paul Woolnough, president of Great White's management company, said tour manager Dan Biechele ``always checks'' with club officials before pyrotechnics are used.

``I'm not going to reply to those allegations, but I do know that the club would have been informed, as they always are,'' Woolnough said. Biechele could not immediately be located for comment.

The owner of a well-known New Jersey nightclub said Great White failed to tell him they were using pyrotechnics for a concert there a week ago.

``Our stage manager didn't even know it until it was done,'' said Domenic Santana, owner of the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. ``My sound man freaked out because of the heat and everything, and they jeopardized the health

and the safety of our patrons.''

Most of the bodies were found near The Station's front exit, some of them burned and others dead from smoke inhalation. Hall also said some appeared to have been trampled in the rush to escape.

``They tried to go out the same way they came in. That was the problem,'' Hall said. ``They didn't use the other three fire exits.''

More than 160 people were taken to area hospitals, Bauer said. Many were taken to Rhode Island Hospital and 38 remained there Friday, 14 of them in critical condition with severe burns and suffering from smoke inhalation.

The ages of the victims ranged from the teens to the late 30s.

``As much as we can prepare for anything like this the stark reality is hard to imagine,'' said Dr. Joseph Amaral, a surgeon and the hospital's president. ``One of the most remarkable things for me is the degree of inhalation injuries that everyone sustained.''

The blaze broke out at about 11 p.m. during the first song at the concert in West Warwick, about 15 miles southwest of Providence.

``All of a sudden I felt a lot of heat,'' said Russell, the band's singer. ``I see the foam's on fire. ... The next thing you know the whole place is in flames.''

He said he started dousing the fire with a water bottle but couldn't put it out, then all the lights went out.

``I just couldn't believe how fast it went up,'' he said. Russell said one of his band members, guitarist Ty Longley, was among the missing.

Firefighters worked through the morning Friday to pull charred bodies from the building as onlookers watched, worried about missing friends.

``They were completely burned. They had pieces of flesh falling off them,'' said Michelle Craine, who was waiting to hear about a friend who was missing. ``It was the worst thing I've ever seen.''

Nearly 200 people gathered at a family center set up at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick by the American Red Cross of Rhode Island. Grief counselors and clergy members were on hand.

Witnesses described seeing dozens of people dash toward for the door after the fire began, and some of those who escaped were later seen staggering into a triage center. Rescuers pulled badly injured victims from the fire as ladder trucks poured water over the flaming skeleton of the building.

``It was calm at first, everyone thought it was part of the act,'' said John DiMeo, who was sitting at the bar near the front door when the fire started. ``It happened so fast.''

Brian Butler was filming the concert for WPRI-TV and saw the flames spread across the ceiling and people rush for the doors.

``People were trying to help others and people were smashing out windows, and people were pulling on people and nobody cared how many cuts they got, nobody cared about the bruises or the burns,'' Butler said. ``They just wanted out of the building.''

The club had passed a fire code compliance inspection Dec. 31 to get its liquor license renewed, Hall said. He said sprinklers were not required because of the building's size, but a license would have been required for the pyrotechnic display.

Great White is a heavy metal band whose hits include ``Once Bitten, Twice Shy'' and ``Rock Me.'' The band emerged in the Los Angeles metal scene of the late 1980s, selling 6 million albums and earning a Grammy nomination in 1990.

They continued to tour and make albums in recent years, maintaining a strong allegiance of fans from their glory days of the 1980s.

It was the second tragedy at a U.S. club in four days. Early Monday, 21 people were killed and more than 50 were injured in the Chicago melee, which began after a security guard used pepper spray to break up a fight.

The worst nightclub fire in the United States was Nov. 28, 1942, when 491 people died at Boston's Cocoanut Grove nightclub.

On the Net:

West Warwick: http://www.westwarwickri.org

Great White: http://www.mistabone.com/index.shtml

02/21/03 14:19 EST

"If you needed my autograph, I'd give it to you." Bob Dylan
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Old 02-21-2003, 02:16 PM   #2
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Yeah, this is really sad

I read earlier today that Great White's lead guitarist (Ty something?) was still missing, presumed dead

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Old 02-21-2003, 04:04 PM   #3
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this really is so sad. i remember great white so well from the clubs in los angeles back in the eighties. man, those were the greatest days...prayers to all of the families and victims...
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Old 02-21-2003, 04:12 PM   #4
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that is horrible...Those were some very scary pictures

I hope those people are at peace now
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Old 02-21-2003, 04:16 PM   #5
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We had a local club catch fire because of Pirotechnics (sp?) earlier this week in Minneapolis. Luckily, there were no deaths or injuries.

I expect to see new policies concerning stage antics like that.
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Old 02-21-2003, 04:17 PM   #6
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Unbelievably tragic for those poor people. It was horrible watching this on the news last night. First the footage of everyone at the bar happy and drinking, waiting for the show to start and then not realizing the fire was real, just watching it burn until it was too late.

I go to small clubs like that all the time, just packed with people and I've never looked for an emergency exit.
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Old 02-21-2003, 04:33 PM   #7
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the worst part of it all is that it could have been prevented... who's idea was it to launch those pyro's in such a small place? sad sad sad
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Old 02-21-2003, 04:34 PM   #8
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Gosh, they're saying it's at least 95 now
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Old 02-21-2003, 05:19 PM   #9
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I guess according to the club owners they didn't know the band was going to use pyrotechnics until it was too late. I guess this band has gone behind the backs of other club owners too when told not to use pyros. I agree this was completely preventable.
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Old 02-21-2003, 05:28 PM   #10
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A very sad tragedy indeed, and so many lives were taken.
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Old 02-21-2003, 06:49 PM   #11
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Sadly, I know someone who went to this show. I haven't had a response to the email I sent him and hope he is merely hospitalized.
Also a scary thought is that had this show not been on a weeknight, I might have gone, I've seen Great White twice before and if the show was on a Saturday I might have trekked to RI if I had no other plans.
The footage is completely unsettling.
God be with the victims and their loved ones.
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Old 02-21-2003, 06:55 PM   #12
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God, those poor people and their families...this just makes me want to throw up.
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Old 02-21-2003, 08:34 PM   #13
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Old 02-21-2003, 09:17 PM   #14
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it is very sad and tragic

I go to small clubs in Deep Ellum here in Dallas occassionally too for concerts...I'm almost afraid to go into those small clubs now...first Chicago...now RI

Hewson, I hope you hear from your friend
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Old 02-21-2003, 09:21 PM   #15
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Originally posted by bonosloveslave
Gosh, they're saying it's at least 95 now
Now it's 96...and rising, they say that the death toll keeps going up whenever I check Yahoo! News.

Man, what a freaky thing...so horrible. I saw a story on that earlier on Dateline...the footage...the fire...oh, my god. And they showed some of the survivors with burns and everything...geez.

Something tells me Great White'll be involved in a lawsuit at some point and time in the near future because of all this.

They claim they had permission from the club to use the pyrotechnics, but other people have said they never asked permission...this could get messy.

If I were in the band, I'd feel insanely horrible right now.

My condolances go to the families and friends of the victims...this is just awful.

Man, what a depressing month: space shuttle explodes, a stampede at a Chicago nightclub kills people, there was a story last night on a Minnesota station that we get here about a 3 year old from Minneapolis who fell from a 7 story building and died, the whole Iraq thing's going on, this nightclub disaster happens...



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