Three Indicted in R.I. Nightclub Fire

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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
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

WARWICK, R.I. (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 _ two for each death.

All three men pleaded innocent. The club owners were released after posting $5,000 cash bail, while bail for Biechele was set at $10,000 cash.

``They are not criminals. They did not commit any criminal acts and they should not be charged with any crime,'' said Jeffrey Pine, attorney for Jeffrey Derderian.

``While we are deeply sympathetic to the victims, the fact remains that Dan Biechele is not guilty of the charges brought in this case,'' said Biechele's attorney, Tom Briody. ``He could not have known of the dangerous conditions that existed inside The Station.''

Attorney General Patrick Lynch planned to meet with reporters later Tuesday to comment on the indictments. He was not available for immediate comment.

The indictment marks the first criminal charges to result from the Feb. 20 fire at The Station nightclub. About 200 people were injured in what was one of the deadliest nightclub fires in the nation's history.

The fire started after the pyrotechnics were shot off just seconds into Great White's first song, quickly igniting the highly flammable foam that had been placed around the stage as soundproofing. Thick smoke quickly spread through the club and within minutes, the one-story, wooden building was engulfed in flames, trapping clubgoers as they rushed toward the same exit.

The cause of the fire was known almost immediately and the victims' final moments were captured by a local television cameraman who was gathering footage for a story on safety in public places.

While the band maintained it received permission to set off the fireworks, the club owners insisted permission was never given.

Members of Great White, who have been named in several civil suits, were not charged by the grand jury. 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 the fire.

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 - two months before the fire.

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 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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