3 Charged In Deadly R.I. Club Fire
WARWICK, R.I., Dec. 9, 2003
(CBS/AP) The owners of the nightclub where 100 people were killed in a fire last February were indicted on involuntary manslaughter charges Tuesday along with the tour manager for the heavy metal band whose pyrotechnics ignited the blaze.
Club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian and Great White tour manager Dan Biechele were each charged with 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter ó two for each death. All three men pleaded innocent during an arraignment in which bail was also set.
Attorney General Patrick Lynch planned to meet with reporters later Tuesday to comment on the indictments. He was not available for immediate comment.
The indictments came after the grand jury issued a report on its nearly 10-month investigation into the fire at The Station nightclub on Feb. 20. The blaze, caused by heavy metal band Great White's indoor pyrotechnics display, also injured about 200 people.
Many of the dead and injured were trapped in the smoke and flames during the crowd's rush for the exits.
Several lawsuits have been filed against the band and the club owners.
CBSNews.com Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen says the charges mean that prosecutors are conceding "that the defendants didn't intentionally set things up in that nightclub to kill all those people. ... Instead Rhode Island claims the men acted with criminal negligence, that they acted so recklessly that they ought to be convicted of unintentionally murdering the victims of the fire."
And while these are not murder charges, Cohen says "they are very, very serious and if the defendants are convicted and a judge wants to make the sentences consecutive, rather than concurrent, these men could be in prison for a long time."
The fire in the blue-collar community of West Warwick, about 12 miles south of Providence, seemed to touch everyone in this small state.
"They say there are six degrees of separation in this world. In Rhode Island, there's a degree and a half," Lynch said after the blaze. "The pain rips through this community quicker than any other."
Authorities investigated the blaze for more than nine months, picking through the charred remains of the site for evidence and interviewing witnesses. They seized computers, documents, club records and appointment books from band members and the club's owners. Investigators also took inspection reports from the town and receipts from a foam manufacturer and collected dozens of items from the site of the fire, including club doors, wiring, spray paint and foam samples.
In the wake of the fire, Gov. Don Carcieri called for emergency inspections of all public buildings similar to The Station nightclub, and the state formed a commission to investigate the blaze. State lawmakers passed stringent new fire-safety standards, including stricter rules on sprinkler requirements for older buildings.
The blaze also led other states to propose tougher fire regulations for nightclubs and prompted finger-pointing among local officials. Fire and building inspection reports released by the town of West Warwick never mention the foam that surrounded the stage, and the club had passed its last inspection ó two months before the fire.
One of the club owners, Jeffrey Derderian, was a longtime television reporter in Rhode Island and Boston, and known to many in the region. He was at the club during the night of the fire.
Great White was a popular band during the 1980s heavy metal era, with hits such as "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" and "Rock Me."
The band's guitarist, Ty Longley, was among those killed in the fire.
Great White recently wrapped up a five-month tour to raise money for fire victims. The band raised just under $64,000, but its tour was criticized by family members of victims who blamed the band for the fire and said the tour was self-serving.
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Thread: Indictments in Rhode Island
12-09-2003, 04:24 PM #1
Indictments in Rhode Island"The uniform is supposed to say something about you. You get it for nothing, but it comes with a history, so do the right thing when you're in it."
Battalion Chief Ed Schoales
from 'Report from Ground Zero' pg 149
12-09-2003, 07:08 PM #2
Well it is about time. Those images of people stuck in a doorway being burned and suffocated is not something easily forgotten. It is sickening that no one can accept reposibility for such idiocy.Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.
12-09-2003, 10:18 PM #3
About time. I personally think a who ever inspected that building should be charge too.I dont suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.
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