Station Capacity Climbed

In court papers made public August 1st, West Warwick, R.I., Fire Marshal Denis Larocque tells how he raised the capacity of The Station nightclub twice in three months because co-owner Michael Derderian asked if the building could hold 400 people.

The Station burned to the ground February 20, 2003, after a fire began during a Great White performance, resulting in 100 dead and about 200 injured. Owners Michael and Jeffrey Derderian each face 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter, and Michael’s case is expected to begin September 5th in Superior Court in Providence.

Derderian concedes there were 458 people in the 404-capacity club that evening, according to The Providence Journal, but his legal team wants to bar testimony on how many people were inside. He has offered to agree on the official court record that 458 is accurate.

The club had a capacity of 225 set in 1991.

According to his grand jury testimony, Larocque set the club’s capacity at 317 in December 1999 when The Station was owned by Howard Julian. West Warwick’s police chief had asked Larocque to calculate the capacity, according to the paper.

Larocque returned to the club in March as part of the transfer of the liquor license from Julian to the Derderians. At that time, Michael Derderian asked “if the building could hold 400 people,” and Larocque applied a new formula to raise the capacity to 404, according to the paper.

To raise the cap, Larocque classified the entire club as standing room, the court papers reportedly say.

Derderian argues in a motion that the capacity should be barred because Larocque no longer has an original copy of a memorandum he wrote to the police chief discussing the new limit, the Journal said. Larocque has a portion of the memorandum reprinted from his computer, and prosecutors argue it is permissible.

Larocque has resigned as fire marshal but remains with the fire department.

Judge Francis Darigan said he may allow some photographs related to the fire to be seen by the jury and will review them before deciding.