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Thread: Rhode Island Nightclub Inferno Kills 99

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    Rhode Island Nightclub Inferno Kills up to 100

    Rhode Island Nightclub Inferno Kills 39 \
    1st report
    As of May 5 2003 100 have died
    Associated Press

    Updated: 02-21-2003 08:34:44 AM

    WEST WARWICK, R.I. (AP) -- A Rhode Island nightclub erupted into flames during a pyrotechnics display at a rock concert, killing at least 39 people and injuring more than 150 as mobs of concertgoers frantically rushed to escape the raging fire.

    At least 39 were confirmed dead, West Warwick Fire Chief Charles Hall said Friday morning. The number was climbing rapidly as firefighters sifted through the rubble, said West Warwick Town Manager Wolfgang Bauer.

    ``I think it will take a good amount of time before the building can be thoroughly searched and a definite number can be estimated,'' Bauer said, adding that as many as five or 10 more people could be added to the death toll.

    The blaze broke out at about 11 p.m. during the first song of a Great White concert at The Station in West Warwick, about 15 miles southwest of Providence. A fireworks display that was part of the show apparently ignited a substance in the ceiling, and flames quickly engulfed the club.

    Hours later, only a blackened shell of the one-story building was left.

    ``The place went up within a matter of two minutes,'' witness John Kudryk said.

    The fire came just four days after 21 people were killed and more than 50 injured during a stampede in a Chicago nightclub that began when a security guard used pepper spray to break up a fight.

    Fire Capt. Russell McGillivray said many of the victims were found in the front door area after apparently becoming trapped trying to escape the fast-spreading flames.

    More than 160 people were taken to area hospitals including Rhode Island Hospital in Providence and Kent County Memorial Hospital in nearby Warwick, said Bauer.

    Firefighters worked into 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 of West Warwick, who was waiting to hear about a friend who was missing. ``It was the worst thing I've ever seen.''

    Paul Vanner, the club's sound technician and stage manager, said one person from the band was missing. It was not immediately known how many people attended the concert, however, one witness told The Providence Journal that about 300 people had been inside.

    Chaos erupted moments after the fire started. Witnesses said dozens of people dashed toward the door, and some of those who escaped were later seen staggering into a triage center. Rescuers carried dozens of people on stretchers.

    Hundreds of firefighters and police from across the region and dozens of ambulances were on the scene. Rescuers were pulling 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.''

    Jack Russell, the lead singer of Great White, told WJAR-TV he checked with the club's manager before the show and the band's use of pyrotechnics was approved. He said he felt the heat of the flames while on stage.

    ``This place went up like the Fourth of July,'' he said.

    At a news conference, Bauer said an investigation was under way to see if the club had a license for fireworks.

    ``Something went off with a lot of heat and caused some material, whatever was on the ceiling or in the vicinity, to go off,'' he said. ``And I assume there was smoke, dense smoke somebody told me, and fire.''

    Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri, who was in Stuart, Fla., to attend a governors' conference, said he planned to return to the state Friday morning.

    ``Our hearts go out to all of them. Our hearts and prayers to all of the families that have been impacted by this. ... There's no words to describe,'' Carcieri said. ``This is a terrible tragedy. It should not have occurred. Why it occurred is one of the questions that needs to be answered.''

    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.

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    Nightclub fire kills at least 54

    Nightclub fire kills at least 54
    Rhode Island concert's pyrotechnics spark blaze
    Friday, February 21, 2003 Posted: 9:19 AM EST (1419 GMT)

    Flames engulf the nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island.

    WEST WARWICK, Rhode Island (CNN) -- At least 54 people died at a concert late Thursday after a fire -- ignited by an indoor pyrotechnics display -- destroyed a Providence, Rhode Island-area nightclub, officials said.

    "Quite a few more" bodies remain in the smoldering ruins of the Station club in West Warwick, said Peter Brousseau, the West Warwick chief of police.

    "The building was well involved inside of three minutes," said Fire Chief Charlie Hall, who told reporters that the building had no sprinklers because its relatively small size didn't require them.

    The fire broke out around 11 p.m. Thursday at a concert featuring the 1980s metal group Great White, known for its hit song "Once Bitten, Twice Shy." One of the group's guitarists, Ty Longley, was among the missing.

    "I'm so sad. It's just such a tragedy. I'm really shocked right now," said Great White lead singer Jack Russell in an emotional interview Friday morning.

    At least 168 people were injured in the fire and taken to nearby hospitals, according to hospital officials. Several were flown to the nearest burn centers in Massachusetts.

    Hall said most of the bodies have been recovered from near the front entrance of the building and that the fire itself 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."

    All of the building's four fire exits were functioning, he said, and firefighters arrived quickly and managed to rescue about 100 people.

    Hall also said the building's capacity was 300, and fewer people than that number were at the club. The Station passed its fire inspection on December 31, 2002, with some minor violations that were corrected, Hall said.

    Brousseau said investigators, searching the nightclub's charred site for more victims and to determine how the blaze spread so quickly, were waiting for the arrival of some heavy equipment to move unstable parts of the destroyed building.

    He said the investigation had so far revealed that the club probably did not have a permit for the band's fireworks as required by state law, but could not say if the club, the band or both would eventually be held responsible.

    Video shot by CNN affiliate WPRI showed Great White performing as on-stage fireworks went off in the background. As the crowd cheered, fire engulfed the wall behind the stage and quickly spread.

    Some didn't realize fire not intentional
    Initially, fans casually made their way toward the exit. Then panic broke out, according to videographer Brian Butler, who was taping the rock concert for a story on nightclub safety.

    "It was that fast. As soon as the pyrotechnics stopped, the flame had started on the egg-crate [foam] backing behind the stage and it just went up the ceiling and people stood and watched it," Butler said.

    The video showed piles of people lying on top of each other, trying to push their way out of the club.

    "Some people were already trying to leave and others were just sitting there going 'Yeah that's great!' and I remember that statement because I was like, 'This is not great, this is time to leave,'" the videographer said.

    As the flames spread inside the one-story building, band members jumped off the stage and joined the crowd, heading toward the exit.

    "We rarely use pyrotechnics," Russell told WCVB-TV. "We use them when we get permission from the club."

    Longley, the missing guitarist and a Pennsylvania native, has been playing with the band for three years.

    "We're still looking for him," Russell said. "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."

    Technician: No supervisor during show
    The Station's stage technician Paul Vanner told WPRI he was not aware that the band planned to use fireworks.

    Vanner said the club has had on-stage pyrotechnics at past concerts, but there has always been a licensed expert to supervise the fireworks. He said no one was on stage to supervise Thursday night's show.

    At least 52 people were taken to nearby Kent Hospital, most in serious to critical condition with first, second and third-degree burns, a hospital spokesman said. Four patients were then flown to Boston and Worcester, Mass.

    Rhode Island's Gov. Don Carcier called the incident a "terrible, terrible tragedy."

    "There are going to be all kinds of questions about 'How could this happen?' 'Why did this happen?' 'How was this allowed to occur?'" the governor said. "The fire marshal says it was not permitted. So why did this go on?"

    On Monday, 21 people died and more than 50 were injured in a stampede at a Chicago nightclub, after a security guard used pepper spray to break up a fight.

    The worst nightclub fire in U.S. history occurred November 28, 1942, at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Boston, Massachusetts. That inferno, fed by decorations in the ritzy nightspot, left 492 people dead.


    WEST WARWICK, R.I. - Firefighters huddle at the front entrance of the nightclub looking for victims and trying to control the fire. (AP Photo/Providence Journal)

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    65 Dead In R.I. Night Club Fire

    by Amy Forliti, AP

    WEST WARWICK, R.I. (Feb. 21) - A nightclub erupted in a raging fire during a pyrotechnics display at a rock concert, killing at least 65 people and injuring more than 160 others as frantic mobs rushed to escape.

    The death toll rose Friday as firefighters searched through the charred shell of the one-story wood building. Town Manager Wolfgang Bauer said the number of dead had reached 65 by midday.

    ''They are still pulling bodies out,'' Gov. Don Carcieri said after rushing back to the state from a conference in Florida.

    It was the deadliest U.S. fire since nearly 80 people died in the 1993 inferno at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas. It also came less than a week after 21 people were killed in a stampede at a Chicago nightspot.

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

    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.

    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, called The Station, had 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.

    Most of the bodies were found near the club's front exit, some of them burned and others dead from smoke inhalation. Hall 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 after Thursday's blaze, Bauer said. Many were taken to Rhode Island Hospital and 38 remained there Friday, 14 of them in critical condition. Doctors said they had severe burns and were 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 Jack Russell, the band's lead 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.

    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.

    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.

    Russell said the band's manager checked with the club before the show and the band's use of pyrotechnics was approved. The club's owners couldn't immediately be located for comment Friday.

    Carcieri, who was in Stuart, Fla., to attend a governors' conference, said the tragedy ''should not have occurred.''

    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.

    The owner of a well-known New Jersey club said Friday that Great White failed to tell him they would use 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.''

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

    AP-NY-02-21-03 1204EST

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    96 die, nearly 200 injured in blaze at R.I. nightclub

    Last updated: 02:03 AM EST

    96 die, nearly 200 injured in blaze at R.I. nightclub
    Saturday, February 22, 2003

    By Pam Belluck and Paul Von Zielbauer

    WEST WARWICK, R.I.-- A raging fire ignited by a rock band's pyrotechnics display ripped through a nightclub here late Thursday night, leaving at least 96 people dead and 187 injured.
    The devastating inferno at a club called The Station was the deadliest nightclub fire in the United States in 25 years and one of the worst in the country's history, with the death toll exceeding that of the 1990 Happy Land social club fire in the Bronx, which killed 87.
    Survivors described a ghastly scene that began when the 1980s heavy metal band Great White lighted pyrotechnic cones on stage minutes after its concert began around 11 p.m., and a shower of white sparks appeared to ignite foam sound-proofing material that lined walls near the stage. Authorities said the fire spread almost instantly to paneling and a low-hanging suspended ceiling.

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    Families learn the worst as listing of dead begins

    Families learn the worst as listing of dead begins
    Monday, February 24, 2003

    By Kathleen Burge

    WARWICK, R.I.-- They drove 18-wheelers and stocked shelves, served steakhouse diners and taught yoga. For many, money didn't come easy; some worked two jobs.
    As forensics experts painstakingly continued to attach names to charred bodies pulled from the ruined remains of The Station rock club in West Warwick, R.I., by last night 42 families had crossed the bridge from dark fear to terrible knowledge. The last of the hospitalized victims were identified, leaving little hope for concertgoers still missing.
    Those who learned their relatives had been confirmed dead in the Thursday night fire turned in their grief to planning funerals. Alfred Carmino Crisostomi, 38, will be buried as he wished, with a blanket bearing the logo of his beloved New York Yankees draping his coffin. Crisostomi, who owned a painting business, regularly made the 165-mile pilgrimage from Warwick to the Bronx for home games.
    By last night, only 19 of the names of the confirmed dead had been made public, as officials worked to contact family members. Unless the rest of the families spoke publicly, it was impossible to know the official fate of their loved ones.

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    Horror of R.I. fire ends a father's life

    Horror of R.I. fire ends a father's life
    Monday, February 24, 2003

    By Lee Hammel
    Telegram & Gazette Staff

    WORCESTER-- Because of the nation's fourth most tragic fire, Keith Lapierre will never meet his second child.
    Keith Lapierre, 29, who recently began a new career as a teacher, went Thursday night with a longtime friend, Adrian Krasinskas of Oxford, also 29, to hear the '80s band Great White play in West Warwick, R.I.
    Mr. Lapierre was among 97 people who died there in Thursday's fire. The adoring father of a 22-month-old son, he left behind a wife expecting to give birth in two weeks.
    Badly burned, Mr. Krasinskas is in critical condition in Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
    On Friday morning, Tammy Lapierre said,

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    Tragic blazes are devastating

    Tragic blazes are devastating
    Tuesday, February 25, 2003

    By Emilie Astell
    Telegram & Gazette Staff

    WORCESTER-- Catastrophic fires often strike with lightning speed, making them the most terrifying of calamities to victims killed by heat, smoke and flames, a historian and college professor said.
    Throughout history, fires in crowded theaters, circus tents or on boats have been frightening and deadly, said Edward O'Donnell, an associate professor of history at the College of the Holy Cross.

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    Half of fire victims are identified
    Tuesday, February 25, 2003

    By Sarah Kershaw and Lydia Polgreen

    WEST WARWICK, R.I.-- Forensic experts yesterday finished examining the bodies of the 97 people killed in a horrific nightclub fire here last week, but said they had identified only just over half of them.
    Meanwhile, a local television station said last night that a statewide grand jury would be convened to look into possible criminal charges.
    In a news conference yesterday afternoon, Gov. Donald L. Carcieri said that the medical examiner had positively identified 55 people and expected to identify dozens more by the end of the day.
    One of those identified was Ty Longley, the guitarist for Great White, the '80s heavy-metal band whose pyrotechnic stage effects sparked the blaze that consumed The Station on Thursday night.
    As coroners continued the grim task of trying to link names to the charred human remains, other officials focused their attention on the two brothers who bought the nightclub in 2000, Michael and Jeffrey Derderian.
    Patrick Lynch, the Rhode Island attorney general, said investigators yesterday did a three-hour search of the home of Michael Derderian, and he complained that both brothers had refused to answer crucial questions about what might have led to the blaze.

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    Partial List of Nightclub Fire Victims

    February 28. 2003 11:59AM

    Partial List of Nightclub Fire Victims

    By The Associated Press

    Rhode Island officials say 97 people died in last week's nightclub fire in West Warwick. Two families asked that their names not be released. The other 95 victims:


    Linda Suffoletto, Glocester, R.I.



    Louis Alves, 33, Lincoln, R.I.

    Kevin Anderson, 37, Warwick, R.I.

    Stacie Angers, 29, Worcester, Mass.

    Christopher Arruda, 30, Coventry, R.I.

    Eugene Avilez, 21, Burlington, Mass.

    Tina Ayer, 33, Warwick, R.I.

    Mary H. Baker, 32, Fall River, Mass.

    Karla Bagtaz, 41, Randolph, Mass.

    Thomas Barnett, 38, West Greenwich, R.I.

    Laureen Beauchaine, 35, West Warwick, R.I.

    Steven Thomas Blom, 38, Cranston, R.I.

    William Christopher Bonardi, 36, Lincoln, R.I.

    Richard Cabral, 37, Attleboro, Mass.

    William Cartwright, 32, Pawtucket, R.I.

    Edward B. Corbet III, 31, West Warwick, R.I.

    Michael Cordier, 31, Westerly, R.I.

    Alfred Crisostomi, 38, Providence, R.I.

    Robert Croteau, 31, Fall River, Mass.

    Lisa D'Andrea, 32, Barrington, R.I.

    Matthew P. Darby, 36, Coventry, R.I.

    Dina Ann DeMaio, 30 West Warwick, R.I.

    Rachel DePietro, 31, Providence, R.I.

    Albert Anthony DiBonaventura, 18, North Dighton, Mass.

    Christina DiRienzo, 37, Plymouth, Mass.

    Kevin J. Dunn, 37, Attleboro, Mass.

    Lori Durante, 40, West Warwick, R.I.

    Edward Ervanian, 29, Cranston, R.I.

    Thomas Fleming, 30, Worcester, Mass.

    Mark A. Fontaine, 22, Johnston, R.I.

    Daniel Frederickson, 37, Coventry, R.I.

    Michael Fresolo, 32, Worcester, Mass.

    James Gahan, 21, Falmouth, Mass.

    Melvin Gerfin, 46, Groton, Conn.

    Laura Gillet, 32, Pembroke, Mass.

    Charline Elaine Gingras-Fick, 35, Central Falls, R.I.

    Michael James Gonsalves, 40, Warwick, R.I.

    James Gooden, 37, Cranston, R.I.

    Derek Gray, 22, Dracut, Mass.

    Scott C. Greene, 35, Warwick, R.I.

    Scott Griffith 41, Mission Viejo, Calif.

    Bonnie L. Hamelin, 27, Warwick, R.I.

    Jude Henault, 37, Lisbon, Conn.

    Andrew Hoban, 22, North Kingstown, R.I.

    Abbie Hoisington, 28, Cranston, R.I.

    Michael Hoogasian, 31, Cranston, R.I.

    Sandy Hoogasian, 27, Cranston, R.I.

    Carlton Howorth III, 39, Norton, Mass.

    Eric James Hyer, 32, Coventry, R.I.

    Derek Brian Johnson, 32, West Warwick, R.I.

    Lisa Kelly, 27, Swansea, Mass.

    Tracy King, 39, Warwick, R.I.

    Michael Joseph Kulz, 30, Warwick, R.I.

    Keith Lapierre, 29, Worcester, Mass.

    Dale Latulippe, 46, Carver, Mass.

    Stephen Libera, 21, North Kingstown, R.I.

    John Longiaru, 23, Johnston, R.I.

    Ty Longley, 31, Los Angeles

    Andrea Mancini, 28, Johnston, R.I.

    Keith Mancini, 34, Cranston, R.I.

    Steven Mancini, 39, Johnston, R.I.

    Judith Manzo, 37, North Providence, R.I.

    Thomas Marion Jr., 27, Westport, Mass.

    Jeffery Martin, 33, Melrose, Mass.

    Tammy Mattera-Housa, 29, Warwick, R.I.

    Kristen McQuarrie, 37, Coventry, R.I.

    Thomas Medeiros, 40, Coventry, R.I.

    Samuel Miceli, 37, Lisbon, Conn.

    Donna M. Mitchell, 29, Fall River, Mass.

    Jason Morton, 38, West Greenwich, R.I.

    Leigh Ann Moreau, 21, Providence, R.I.

    Ryan M. Morin, 31, Alston, Mass.

    Katherine O'Donnell, 26, Seekonk, Mass.

    Nicholas O'Neill, 18, Pawtucket, R.I.

    Matthew James Pickett, 33, Bellingham, Mass.

    Carlos L. Pimental, 38, West Warwick, R.I.

    Christopher Prouty, 34, Pawtucket, R.I.

    Jeffrey Rader, 32, Danville, Calif.

    Teresa Rakoski, 30, Taunton, Mass.

    Robert Reisner, 29, Coventry, R.I.

    Walter Rich, 40, Attleboro, Mass.

    Donald Roderiques, 46, Fall River, Mass.

    Tracey Romanoff, 33, Coventry, R.I.

    Joseph Rossi, 35, Seekonk, Mass.

    Bridget Sanetti, 25, Coventry, R.I.

    Rebecca Shaw, 24, Warwick, R.I.

    Dennis Smith, 36, Pawtucket, R.I.

    Victor Stark, 39, West Yarmouth, Mass.

    Benjamin Suffoletto, 43, Glocester, R.I.

    Shawn Sweet, 28, Pembroke, Mass.

    Jason Sylvester, 24, Coventry, R.I.

    Sarah Jane Telgarsky, 37, Plainfield, Conn.

    Kevin Washburn, 30, Franklin, Mass.

    Everett Woodmansee, 30, Alton, R.I.

    Robert Daniel Young, 29, Taunton, Mass.


    Source: State of Rhode Island

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    Rhode Island Club Fire Focuses on Inspectors

    Rhode Island Club Fire Focuses on Inspectors

    Associated Press

    WEST WARWICK, R.I. (AP) -- The first line of defense against a tragedy like the one that struck a Rhode Island nightclub are understaffed, overworked fire inspectors, say experts who caution that inspections are rarely as thorough as they ought to be.


    Fire inspectors routinely visited The Station nightclub over the past three years but failed to note the highly flammable foam on the club's walls.

    Investigators say the Feb. 20 fire started when sparks from a rock band's pyrotechnics ignited the polyurethane soundproofing, engulfing the building in flames within minutes. Nearly 100 people were killed and more than 180 injured in the blaze.

    Some experts in the field say it is unfair to blame the fire on West Warwick inspector Denis Larocque, who visited the club most recently in December.

    ``The state fire marshal's office is grossly undermanned, and so is every fire prevention division in the state,'' said East Providence Fire Chief Gerald A. Bessette. ``Until that changes, things are going to go undetected. That's the sad truth.''

    Larocque has not returned calls and, according to West Warwick's town manager, has not spoken with investigators.

    New Hampshire Fire Marshal Donald Bliss, president of the National Association of State Fire Marshals, said examining wall coverings to determine their flammability is a vital part of any inspection.

    Town records show Larocque cited the club for a series of minor code violations, including door that swung the wrong way, burned-out light bulbs and improperly installed fire extinguishers. All the violations appear to have been corrected.

    But the documents make no mention of the foam, which experts say burns like gasoline and emits a dense, toxic smoke.

    Larocque is named, along with the town, the club owners and the band, in a wrongful death lawsuit filed Tuesday by the families of two people killed in the fire. The suit accuses Larocque of negligence for failing to report the foam.

    Rhode Island is one of the few states that require all fire departments to have at least one licensed fire inspector. They are typically high-ranking officers _ Larocque, 46, is a battalion chief and 25-year veteran.

    Nationally, just 16 percent of fire departments have a full-time inspector on staff, according to a December 2002 study by the National Fire Prevention Association and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    The study also showed that 7 percent of Americans _ about 21 million people, mostly in rural areas _ live in communities where no fire inspections are carried out.

    Turnover in the field is high, said Gary Keith, vice president of regional operations for the Quincy, Mass.-based National Fire Prevention Association, which trains and licenses fire inspectors.

    ``Certainly there are a lot of firefighters who don't want any part of that job,'' Keith said. ``It's not the most glamorous career path.''

    Keith said cities and towns tend to underestimate the importance of fire prevention. ``When municipal budgets get tight, unfortunately those are the areas that are the first to see cutbacks,'' he said.

    In Rhode Island, cities and towns require restaurants and entertainment venues to be inspected every year before their licenses are renewed. They also require inspections when homes or businesses change hands, or are renovated or expanded.

    In West Warwick, Larocque is a one-man fire prevention division in a city of around 30,000. Nearly 1,000 businesses and more than 13,000 dwellings fall under his purview. East Providence has two inspectors for a city of 50,000. In Bristol, population 24,000, the fire chief is the department's lone certified fire inspector.

    Keith said many fire inspectors in other states face similar workloads.

    ``Inspectors are human,'' said North Kingstown Fire Marshal Joseph St. Jean. ``We can't possibly catch everything. I've got a one-hour time slot before I move on to my next inspection. I try to budget my time the best I can, but I'm overburdened.''

    In the wake of the nightclub fire, Rhode Island's governor ordered inspections of bars and restaurants around the state. Since then, some bars and clubs have been temporarily shut down because of code problems.

    Similar sweeps have been done around the country, and clubs in nearby Boston, as well as in Michigan and New Jersey, have been shut down.

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    City unions to lead Tag Day collection

    March 10. 2003 12:00AM

    City unions to lead Tag Day collection
    Funds to be for nightclub fire victims Collection for fire victims set

    Patricia J. James

    WORCESTER- Volunteers from Worcester's municipal and school unions will be collecting donations Saturday at 12 city locations to benefit families of the victims of The Station nightclub fire last month in West Warwick, R.I.

    Ninety-nine people have died from injuries suffered in the fire. Many others remain hospitalized.

    "We think that whatever we can get will benefit the families,' said retired chief of police Edward P. Gardella. "Whatever we get will be appreciated. ... I'm hoping that we will do well, we're holding out for good weather.'

    The Educational Association of Worcester, the National Association of Government Employees Local 495, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1009 and the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 378 will sponsor the "Tag Day' to be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    While Mr. Gardella said he couldn't estimate how much the organizations are hoping to raise, he said $30,000 to $50,000 doesn't seem out of reach.

    "Particularly, since Worcester can relate so well to the loss due to fire,' he said. "From all reports that we get, there's not going to be a great deal of insurance money available for these families ... many of these families have lost breadwinners.'

    Mr. Gardella called the event a "city venture' and said the gifts will be presented in the name of the citizens of the city of Worcester and not in the name of any one person or organization.

    A thank-you party for the volunteers will follow the fund-raiser at 5 p.m. at the Worcester Athletic Club, 440 Grove St., and Mr. Gardella extended a welcome to "anybody who wants to come by and say hello, have some pizza, have beverages and anybody who'd like to stop and make a donation.'

    Additionally, if anybody wants to volunteer, they should call the IAFF local at (508) 831-0519.

    Those who can't make it to the event, can mail a check to The Station Fire Relief Fund, c/o President Frank Raffa, Worcester Fire Fighters Local 1009, 625 Chandler St., Worcester, MA 01602.

    "We'd love to be able to come up with a very large amount,' Mr. Gardella said.

    The 12 locations at which volunteers will be collecting donations are: Belmont and Plantation streets; Newton Square; Belmont Street and Lake Avenue; Rice Square; Worcester Center Boulevard; Webster Square; Park Avenue and Salisbury Street; Lincoln Square; Park Avenue and Chandler Street; Burncoat Street and I-290; Southbridge and Cambridge streets; and West Boylston and East Mountain streets.

  12. #12
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    R.I. Gov. Orders Strict Fire Inspections

    Updated: 03-09-2003 04:57:17 PM

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    R.I. Gov. Orders Strict Fire Inspections

    Jack Hagel
    Associated Press

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- CAV, a sophisticated eatery, for years added ambiance to its 19th century building with tabletop oil lamps, Christmas lights and antique rugs that dangled from the ceiling.


    Those touches had passed fire inspections before, CAV's owner says, but on Monday they were among the violations that led officials to shut the restaurant down.

    Under orders from Gov. Don Carcieri, fire inspectors in Rhode Island are sweeping through hundreds of clubs and restaurants to check for particularly egregious violations after a nightclub fire killed 99 people and injured more than 180 on Feb. 20.

    CAV reopened Friday after getting rid of the potentially flammable decor, but about a dozen nightclubs, bars and restaurants remained shuttered by inspectors or had closed voluntarily to fix violations.

    The pace of the inspections is faster than the more comprehensive work fire officials normally do, but inspectors say the fire at The Station nightclub has not made them tougher on business owners.

    Some proprietors disagreed, including CAV owner Sylvia Moubayed, who said offending items such as her oil lamps had been there for years.

    ``Even though it had a teeny weeny flame,'' Moubayed said, ``it became a fire hazard.''

    Carcieri has ordered fire inspectors to quickly examine just over 800 midsize clubs and restaurants, focusing on venues with alcohol or entertainment licenses. More than a third of them had been visited by the end of last week.

    ``This is a serious and sincere effort by the governor to ensure that more lives are not lost,'' Carcieri spokesman Jeff Neal said.

    Serious violations inspectors have found include blocked exits, faulty wiring, missing fire extinguishers and, in the case of an East Providence tavern, a fire exit that led to a fenced-in lot.

    More common were minor infractions _ anything from broken exit signs to low batteries in emergency lights. In those cases, owners generally are given 48 hours to correct the problem.

    ``There's probably a little violation in each building,'' said Deputy Chief Richard A. Delgado of the Cranston Fire Department, which closed three businesses.

    In buildings built before 1976, which do not fall under today's codes, inspectors still can only recommend modern requirements such as sprinklers, East Providence Fire Chief Gerald Bessette said. But he added that there are other fire safety changes older buildings are required to make, such as putting flame-resistant coating on wood paneling.

    Local fire departments are trying to do a thorough job with small staffs, usually consisting of two or three inspectors, fire chiefs say. Besides this latest sweep, they also have to keep up with their regular school and home inspections.

    ``It's just juggling another ball up in the air right now,'' Delgado said.

    Inspectors are having to work longer hours, but fire officials say the quality of their inspections is not suffering.

    ``There's only so much you can do and only so much time you can spend doing them,'' said James T. Condon, Pawtucket's fire chief. ``I'm sure they're looking at everything and I'm sure they were vigilant in the past and I'm sure they'll be just as vigilant this time.''

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    R.I. fire survivor starts road to healing

    March 16. 2003 12:00AM

    R.I. fire survivor starts road to healing
    Friendships, hope sustain blaze victim

    Michael Mello

    PROVIDENCE- The bandages have been off his burnt hands for a couple of days now, but open sores and pink and red blotches are reminders of the long road ahead for William Long.

    Yet Long, 31, is one of the lucky ones. He survived a horrific West Warwick nightclub fire that claimed nearly 100 lives and injured more than 180 others. Today he hopes to be discharged from Rhode Island Hospital, to return home to Las Vegas.

    He faces months of physical therapy and an uncertain future. Uninsured and now unemployed, the band manager admits he's not ready to confront whatever psychological demons may await.

    "I haven't dealt with it,' he told The Associated Press yesterday. "I've taken that entire minute and a half of my life and boxed it up.'

    Long managed a band called Trip - the opening act for a Great White concert on Feb. 20 at The Station nightclub. Soon after Great White took the stage, a pyrotechnics show sparked a fast-moving, deadly fire. A grand jury is investigating whether criminal charges are warranted.

    Long remembers Great White guitarist Ty Longley stepping off the stage, grabbing his arm and saying "Bill, let's get out of here.'

    Longley was heading toward the front door but Long says he moved toward a rear exit, where there seemed to be less people. Longley, he says, followed.

    "I started kicking and kicking a window, someone said it was Plexiglas and wouldn't break,' he said. Then smoke enveloped his lungs.

    "I coughed, it hurt, I fell to the ground and got pushed and kicked,' he recalled.

    Somehow, Long ended up outside, dazed, badly burned on his face, back and hands. Longley never made it out and died in the blaze.

    Long ended up in the hospital, alone in a strange state, except for calls and then visits from his fiancee, Lori White.

    But in the hospital he met fellow fire victim David Malagrino, 36, a bartender in Westerly and a regular at the club. They commiserated, while doing their best to focus on the future.

    "We feed off each other on a daily basis,' Long said. "We've helped each other move on.'

    He also met a Warwick man, Bob Sevigny, whose kindness and compassion he said "was heaven-sent.'

    Sevigny had showed up at the hospital with magazines, looking for a way to help anyone.

    "They brought me right to Bill's room, he was covered in ointments, wrapped up in all kinds of petroleum on his neck and body,' Sevigny recalled.

    Long said his eyes were swollen shut the first time Sevigny visited.

    The visits were daily and included Sevigny's two children, who brought cards made by their classmates.

    Sevigny helped Long eat at first and shared his excitement when he was able to hold a soda can on his own.

    "I didn't know anyone here,' Long said. "He's made such an amazing difference.'

    Sevigny said the friendship "helped me to cope and get through' the emotional aftermath of the fire, which touched every corner of the tiny state.

    Both Sevigny and Malagrino, who hopes to be discharged next week, plan to meet up again with Long.

    "That's 100 percent for sure,' Malagrino said. "His leaving tomorrow will probably be a little sad, we've been together right since it happened.'

    Long, a Syracuse, N.Y., native, says his survival and the friendships it spawned have given him a new outlook. He says he has no anger.

    "There's a reason I'm alive right now,' he said. "It makes me smile every day.'

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    Nightclub fire victims seek access to site, videotape

    March 18. 2003 12:00AM

    Nightclub fire victims seek access to site, videotape


    PROVIDENCE- A group of victims' family members and survivors of the nightclub fire in West Warwick asked a Superior Court judge yesterday to let their own investigators have access to the fire site as they gather evidence for potential civil litigation.

    The group was also seeking a subpoena to force WPRI-TV to hand over a copy of the entire video recording that one of its cameramen took of the Feb. 20 fire at The Station. Parts of the tape have been aired, but the group would like access to the entire footage.

    The fire started after a band's pyrotechnics ignited highly flammable soundproofing foam. The fast-moving fire killed 99 people and injured nearly 190 as they tried to escape.

    The two law firms representing the group petitioned the court yesterday, asking that their own experts be allowed to conduct a forensic examination of the site. The law firms represent two survivors of the fire and the relatives of four people who died in the blaze.

    Lawyers Mark Mandell, of Mandell, Schwartz and Boisclair, and Max Wistow, of Wistow and Barylick, have hired a team of fire experts to assist in the probe as they pursue potential civil claims.

    The lawyers did not immediately return phone messages left by The Associated Press.

    In court papers, the lawyers contend their own investigation is necessary because the civil claims they intend to pursue "may raise issues and may involve items of evidence that may not be relevant to, or investigated by, a law enforcement criminal investigation.'

    Mandell and Wistow said their inspectors would take photographs of the site and identify and record artifacts. The experts, if allowed to do their inspection, may also want to remove samples from the fire site for further analysis and preservation, the court papers said.

    A spokesman for Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch said the state has gathered what it needs for its investigation and doesn't have a problem with outside investigators combing the site.

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