Thursday, February 02, 2006

100 counts of manslaughter

Nearly three years after the inferno at The Station nightclub in West Warwick claimed 100 lives, the criminal and civil suits are still unfolding.

On February 20, 2003, pyrotechnic special effects set off by the band Great White ignited foam insulation at The Station nightclub in West Warwick. The tiny building was fully engulfed in less than five minutes, eventually killing 100 people and injuring another 200. Needless to say, the investigation into the cause of the fire was wide reaching, and nearly everyone involved in (the club owners, the foam manufacturers, the band's stage manager, the concert promoters, and so on) is facing legal or civil action as a result.

Yesterday, Great White's former manager, Daniel Biechele, agreed to a plea bargain in which he will plead guilty to 100 counts of misdemeanor manslaughter as a result of his decision to ignite the fireworks that caused the fire. By pleading guilty, he avoided another 100 counts of gross criminal negligence, and faces 10 years in Rhode Island's Adult Correctional Institution instead of 100 years. Biechele will be sentenced Tuesday in Providence.

The owners of the club, Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, are still facing 200 counts of manslaughter each (two per death - one for involuntary manslaughter, and one for criminal negligence resulting in manslaughter). The Derderians' lawyers expect that Biechele's guilty plea takes the pressure off of his clients, but that remains to be seen. It will be awfully hard to convince a jury of Rhode Islanders to let them off the hook.

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