Ex-Tour Manager Apologizes

The former Great White tour manager who ignited pyrotechnics that sparked the deadly 2003 fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I., has written personalized letters of apology to family members of all 100 people killed in the blaze.

The handwritten letters from Daniel Biechele, who pleaded guilty approximately two months ago for his role in the fire, have been delivered to a judge and will be given to family members sometime after his sentencing hearing in May.

“Mr. Biechele feels genuine sorrow at what happened in this case, and he’s been wanting to say something to the victims for a long time,” Biechele’s lawyer, Tom Briody, said.

The ex-tour manager pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter for setting off the pyrotechnics that triggered the February 20, 2003, fire. Sparks from the pyrotechnics ignited flammable foam affixed to the walls and ceiling of the club.

More than 200 concertgoers were injured.

Biechele’s plea deal calls for him to serve no more than 10 years in prison. His sentencing hearing is to begin May 8th and could last several days as relatives of those killed are able to address the judge or provide written statements about how the fire affected their lives. Court TV will broadcast the hearing.

Briody would not say whether he would ask Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan to weigh the letters as a factor for a lighter sentence, but did say it was Biechele’s decision to write the notes.

But that doesn’t matter to Diane Mattera, whose 29-year-old daughter, Tammy, was killed in the incident. She said the apology letter would not ease her grief, and that it’s coming too late.

“He is a direct link to the cause of the accident that took a hundred lives and maimed over 200 other people,” Mattera said. “How is a letter going to change that?”

Meanwhile, charges are still pending against the owners of The Station, brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, who each face 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Michael Derderian is scheduled to stand trial July 31st.

At the plea hearing in February, a prosecutor said there was evidence that Biechele received permission from Michael Derderian to set off the pyrotechnics. The brothers have maintained that no such permission was given.

Biechele did not have the required permits to ignite the explosives.