N.J. Club Claims Band Used Pyrotechnics Without Warning

By | February 22, 2003 at 12:00 AM

Great White, the heavy metal band whose pyrotechnic display set off a blaze that killed at least 95 people in Rhode Island, used similar special effects without authorization just last week, a New Jersey nightclub owner said on Friday.

As authorities seek clues in what may become a criminal investigation of Thursday night’s inferno, attention is already focused on the shower of sparks that the band used to kick off their fatal gig at the Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island.

Great White played on Feb. 14 at the Stone Pony, a club in Asbury Park, New Jersey made famous by Bruce Springsteen, and opened its set with a blast of pyrotechnics, said club owner Domenic Santana.

“We did not know and they did it right here,” Santana told a news conference. “We could have been in the same situation many people were in last night.”

Santana said he and his staff were stunned when the stage lit up with sparks at Great White’s Stone Pony show.

“I said to myself, ‘What the hell is going on?’ We did not know they were having pyrotechnics. We wouldn’t have allowed them,” he said. “Thank God we’re here today to speak about that.”

Kathleen Hagerty, a lawyer representing the Station’s owner, told music industry Web site Billboard.com that the pyrotechnics were used without permission from the club.

But Paul Woolnough, president of Great White’s management company, said Great White’s tour manager Dan Biechele “always checks” with club officials before pyrotechnics are used, according to Billboard.com.

At least 95 people died and more than 180 were injured at the Station, Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri said. West Warwick Fire Chief Charles Hall said the club had no license for pyrotechnic displays.

Stone Pony owner Santana said his stage manager, Chris Glowicki, confronted the band after the first spark display and ensured there were no further pyrotechnics.

Glowicki said he did not see the band set up the spark-making equipment in the hectic changeover from one band to another.

“I said, ‘Oh my God what’s happening. What’s going to happen next,” said Glowicki. “Sparks were coming off the stage. Thank God that night there were no incidents. We were lucky.” (Additional reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss, Larry Fine, Steve Gorman)

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