Two Dozen Defendants Added to Rhode Island Nightclub Fire Lawsuit

The Incident
First-In: Heroic Rescues
Death Toll Rises to 97
At Least 96 Dead in Inferno
Rescuers Struggle with Horror
Fire, Smoke Turns Club Into Hell
Discuss the Warwick Tragedy

The Aftermath
R.I. To Release More Tapes
Judge: 911 Calls To Remain Secret
Lawsuit From Nightclub Fire Filed
Consultants Fault Lack Of Planning
Judge: Evidence Will Be Preserved
Gag Order Sought in Club Fire Case
Changes to Safety Laws Since Fire
Few Changes After Club Blaze
Web Site Comforts RI Patients
RI Gov. Orders Strict Inspections
2 Families Sue in RI Club Blaze
RI Nightclub Claims May Total $1B
RI Nightclub Death Toll Rises to 98
Victims Face Long Recovery
All But 4 Victims ID'd
Thousands Mourn Victims
IDs Could Take Days
Family, Friends Search
9/11 Widow Reflects
Survivors Recall Heroic Acts

The Investigation
Patron Capacity Unclear in RI Fire
Band Member Testifies
RI Reports Don't Mention Foam
Fire Inspector Report Released
Post-9/11 Drills Aid Club Rescue
Federal Team Launches Probe
Grand Jury Begins Probe
Brannigan: Inspectors Ready?
Investigation Ramps Up
Investigators Check Soundproof
Pyrotechnics Examined in Clubs
Disasters Prompt Inspections
Sprinklers Not Required
Nightclub Up to Code Before Fire
Town Withholds Records
RI Begins Inspections
No Warning of Pyro Use
Pyrotechnics Usually Safe
Atty: RI Club Rep. OK'd Pyrotech.
Fire Challenges State Atty. Gen.
IDs Weighed Heavy on Dentists
FEMA Denies Disaster Aid for Fire

Photos & Video
IBS Scene SlideShow
ABC: The Fire Starts
WJAR Video Feedroom

History of Tragedies
Carter: History Strikes Again
Fire, Life Safety Laws in Front
Tragedy Recalls Cocoanut Grove
Worst Club Tragedies
Nightclub Disasters Too Familiar
List: Worst Club Tragedies

Related Sites
West Warwick Fire Department
Warwick Fire Department
FH Network: Rhode Island
Providence Journal Coverage

One of the new defendants is a television cameraman was at the club filming footage for a story on building safety. His footage showed the blaze beginning when pyrotechnics were shot off during a concert by Great White, and the ensuing chaos. The February 2003 fire killed 100 people and injured more than 200 others.

Other defendants added to the litigation include insurance firms and a company that inspected the West Warwick nightclub before the fire.

The amended lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Providence, pushed the number of defendants to 53.

``Essentially we want to make sure that we have named every party that was involved in this fire to make sure that everybody liable is involved in this lawsuit,'' Robert I. Reardon Jr., one of the four lawyers working on the case, told The Day of New London, Conn.

The original lawsuit, filed in June 2003 in U.S. District Court in Hartford, Conn., named 27 defendants, including the brothers who owned the nightclub, Michael and Jeffrey Derderian, West Warwick town officials and Anheuser-Busch Inc., which sold beer at the concert.

The Derderian brothers and Daniel Biechele, Great White's former tour manager, were indicted by a Rhode Island grand jury in December on 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter - two counts for each death. Biechele is accused of lighting the pyrotechnics.

The amended lawsuit mirrors a complaint filed July 22 in Rhode Island state court by eight attorneys on behalf of 80 people killed and another 146 injured in the blaze. The 70-count Rhode Island lawsuit names 46 defendants and spans 130 pages.

The 141-page, 70-count Connecticut lawsuit sues the same defendants as its Rhode Island counterpart and adds seven more names that lawyers allege promoted the concert across state lines and lured people from Connecticut to see Great White.

They include the Norwich, Conn., branch of Strawberries, a chain of East Coast music stores, which allegedly sold two tickets to the concert to Sarah Jane Telgarsky of Plainfield, Conn., who was killed in the fire.

The lawsuit alleges that the store should have known that The Station did not have adequate fire protection. Strawberries made about $5 from the sale of the two $20 tickets, lawyers have said.

Other Connecticut defendants include New London radio station WQGN, which gave away tickets to the concert. Ledyard residents Glenn and Lisa Johnson and New London resident Melanie Holiday went to The Station after winning some of those tickets. All three survived the fire but suffered burns, smoke inhalation and other injuries.

The additional defendants include cameraman Brian Butler, his employer, Channel 12 in Providence, and his network, CBS Broadcasting.

Butler's footage gave both investigators and television viewers haunting images of the start of the inferno. Both the Connecticut and Rhode Island lawsuits allege that Butler blocked an exit while he filmed, potentially increasing the death toll.

``Not true,'' said Chip Babcock, a lawyer defending Butler, Channel 12 and CBS. ``He didn't, and there is a film record of it that pretty clearly demonstrates that. ... I still believe that Brian Butler saved lives that night.''

Babcock added, ``We understand what is happening here. The plaintiffs' lawyers are trying to create as deep of a pool as they can to compensate these people. But having deep pockets is not what it is all about. You've got to find who is responsible.''

The Connecticut lawsuit seeks compensatory damages of $100 million, punitive damages, lawyers fees and court costs.