Station Transcripts Released
Grand jury transcripts released February 1st regarding The Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I., reveal the owner of the company that supplied pyrotechnics warned Great White tour manager Dan Biechele against using gerbs in small clubs.
High-Tech Special Effects owner Randy Bast of Memphis told the grand jury he tried to talk Biechele into buying non-igniting devices for the band’s tour that began a few weeks before the catastrophic fire that killed 100 people and injured more than 200, according to the Boston Globe.
"I told him to stay away from pyrotechnic devices," Bast said. "He had indicated to me that they were going into smaller venues, and I tried to put him towards" non-igniting devices.
Bast testified that Biechele instead bought $1,743 worth of gerbs – devices that produce a 15-foot spray of sparks for 15 seconds – and ignored his advice on fire safety, local fire official approval and using a licensed technician to set off the effects, the paper said.
The deadly blaze occurred after Biechele launched the gerbs onstage, which ignited flammable foam on the back wall that was illegally used to dampen sound.
The transcripts also revealed that while deciding on criminal charges, the grand jurors asked prosecutors to bring in an expert to explain fire inspections, local and state fire codes, and what type of inspection the town of West Warwick required, according to the Providence Journal.
West Warwick Fire Inspector Denis Larocque was asked during the grand jury hearing if he noticed during a November 2002 inspection of The Station whether there was foam around the stage area. He said he did not, that he was focused on other problems the venue had already been cited for.
When the jurors asked the prosecution to bring in the fire expert, they were informed they could only consider Biechele and club owners Michael and Jeffrey Derderian because under Rhode Island law, the state fire marshal or anyone working with him is immune from civil or criminal liability unless there was proof they acted in bad faith or malice, the Journal said.
"Why have a fire marshal?" one grand juror reportedly responded.
Biechele pleaded guilty last year to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to four years in jail.
Michael Derderian also pleaded guilty last year to manslaughter charges and was sentenced to four years in jail and three years’ probation. His brother, Jeffrey, was sentenced to 500 hours of community service.