The members of Great White were spared Tuesday (December 9) when the band’s tour manager and the club owners were indicted for the fire that took 100 lives in Rhode Island earlier this year. Tour manager Dan Biechele and the owners of The Station, Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, were each charged with 200 counts of manslaughter for the February 20 blaze in West Warwick that also injured 200 other people. All three men pled innocent at the hearing and were released after posting bail. Their next hearing is February 9.
Biechele and the Derderians were each charged with 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the flammable soundproofing in the club, as well as 100 more counts of involuntary manslaughter due to gross criminal negligence. The maximum sentence for each of the counts is 30 years in prison.
While maintaining they did nothing wrong, the defendants pointed at each other for what happened. The Derderians said that Great White and Biechele didn’t have the right permits for the pyro, while Biechele faulted the brothers for unsafe conditions at The Station. The club owners also think that blame should be spread to Great White frontman Jack Russell and to the town’s inspectors who certified the venue as being safe just two months earlier-and who never noticed the foam on the walls.
The fire began just after Great White started playing, when Biechele set off the band’s pyrotechnic effects and the club’s soundproofing quickly went up in flames, filling the building with thick, black smoke before it burned to the ground.
While Russell and the other members of Great White have so far avoided criminal charges, they’ve been named in some of the civil suits that have been filed since February.
Great White has played a series of benefits this year to raise money for the Station Family Fund, which was set up to provide assistance to the families of the victims and survivors of The Station fire. The band has donated over $60,000 to the fund from the tour’s proceeds.
It wasn’t just locals who died in the fire-Great White guitarist Ty Longley was also lost that night.