Relatives of two victims of the deadly Rhode Island nightclub fire sued the club owners and the rock band Great White among others on Tuesday in likely the first wrongful death suit related to the blaze, the plaintiffs’ lawyer said.
The lawsuit was filed in Providence Superior Court in Rhode Island on behalf of the families of Donald Roderiques and Tina Ayer. Their lawyer, Brian Cunha, said he expected to file more suits on behalf of four other families later this week. He said he would ask the jury for at least $1 million per victim.
The Feb. 20 fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, near Providence, killed 98 people and injured nearly 200 in one of the worst such blazes in U.S. history.
Fire swiftly engulfed the wooden building after Great White fired off giant sparklers to kick off their set, torching sound-insulating foam behind the stage.
The band says it received permission from the club owners, Michael and Jeffrey Derderian, to set off its sparklers. The owners deny that.
Other defendants named in the relatives’ suit are the town of West Warwick, the American Foam Corp., which made and sold the foam to the club; a local fire inspector who signed off on an inspection late last year; and the man who ignited the band’s fireworks stage show.
The defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.
Cunha estimated as many as 30 families could join the litigation.
“There are two things these people want. They are devastated and they want answers,” Cunha told Reuters. “I think that a suit like this will get them answers and give them whatever peace of mind they can get sooner rather than later.”
Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch convened a grand jury last week to consider whether criminal charges should be filed in the case.
Documents released by the town on Monday showed fire inspectors never noted the flammable foam material on the walls of the nightclub that appears to have fed the fire. The material did not carry the state-mandated fire retardant rating.
The reports also showed other problems, including burned-out light bulbs on fire exit signs and doors that swung the wrong way. Town officials said the owners corrected the problems and passed their last inspection late in 2002.