WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WBZ NewsRadio) – Sunday marked the 19th anniversary of the devastating Station nightclub fire that took the lives of 100 people and injured 203.
The fire occurred on the evening of February 20, 2003, when the tour manager of the band that was performing that night, Great White, set off pyrotechnics. The pyrotechnics lit the flammable acoustic foam located throughout the venue and the fire reached flashover in just a minute. The entire club was engulfed in heavy black smoke in just two minutes.
The incident push for more reformed for the use of pyrotechnics and fire safety in nightclubs across the country. Following the tragedy, the National Fire Protection Association issued a new national standard for “Life Safety Code.” This requires all nightclubs that can fit 100 people or more to have automatic fire sprinklers, additional crowd manager personal and exit requirements.
An investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) found that the club’s sprinkler system could have contained the fire long enough for everyone to escape. However, after the building underwent an occupancy change when it was converted from a restaurant into a nightclub and was exempt from such requirements. West Warwick fire inspectors never noticed the exemption.
At the time the brothers who owned Station, Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, along with the tour manager Daniel Biechele were each charged with 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Biechele was sentenced to fifteen years in prison, with four to serve and eleven years suspended, and three years' probation.
Michael Derderian received the same sentence as Biechele and Jeffrey Derderian received 500 hours of community service. Michael was released early on good behavior in 2009. In October 2021, the Derderian brothers released documents explaining how the club's sprinkler systems failed. The various documents described what kind of soundproofing was purchase, fire inspector reports and more.
WBZ's Charlie Bergeron (@CharlieBergeron) has more: