Nightclub Fire Families Upset Over ‘Pokemon Go’ Stop

Relatives of 100 people killed in a 2003 Rhode Island nightclub fire and survivors are upset that the site is a stop in “Pokemon Go.”

The Associated Press learned of the Pokestop when visiting the site in West Warwick last week. The site is currently surrounded by a chain-link fence while a memorial is built.

Some family members and survivors called it outrageous when informed about the stop and called for it to be removed.

“You’re kidding me,” said Chris Fontaine, whose 22-year-old son, Mark, was killed. “It’s not a gaming kind of place.”

Photo: Michelle R. Smith/AP
Mementoes hang from a chain link fence surrounding the site of the nightclub fire that killed 100 people in West Warwick, R.I.

Survivor Victoria Potvin Eagan called it awful and disgusting.

“That is just so disrespectful,” she said. “Graveyards and memorial sites especially are meant to honor and respect a certain person or event, not to make light of it.”

Robert Bruyere’s stepdaughter, 27-year-old Bonnie Hamelin, was killed.

“For them to use a memorial site, that’s just wrong,” he said.

Fontaine also was not happy to learn that the description inside the game incorrectly says that the fire killed 200 people, double the actual number killed.

“At least have your facts straight,” she said.

An email to game developer Niantic was not immediately returned.

The Feb. 20, 2003, fire was started when pyrotechnics for the band Great White set fire to flammable foam placed as soundproofing inside The Station nightclub. Many clubgoers were trapped and killed. More than 200 people were injured.

Work crews at the site have had to take steps to avoid disturbing human remains that were left behind in the rubble.

It’s not clear whether the stop has caused problems, and whether anyone has asked to remove it. The head of the foundation working to build the memorial did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Pokestops have been removed from the atomic bomb memorial park in Hiroshima, Japan, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and other sites.

The nightclub site sits on a busy road on a commercial strip in West Warwick. The stop can be accessed from outside the fence that currently surrounds it. The memorial park is on track to open to the public in October.

Not everyone with a connection to the fire is upset. Dave Kane, whose 18-year-old son, Nicholas O’Neill, was the youngest victim, said the Pokestop could help spread the word about what happened.

“If it draws people over there when we open, that would be great,” he said.