The Station was a nightclub catering to the fans of glam metal and rock’n’roll located at 211 Cowesett Avenue in West Warwick, Rhode Island, USA. On Thursday – February 20, 2003 – flammable foam pasted on the walls and ceiling of The Station caught fire after pyrotechnics set off to start the headlining band Great White ignited it.
The fire spread fast, completely engulfing The Station within 5 and a half minutes. Of 462 people inside, only 132 escaped uninjured. 230 survivors required hospitalization and 100 lost their lives, making The Station nightclub fire the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in the history of the USA.
The entire incident was caught on video. Cameraman Brian Butler was at The Station filming the event for WPRI-TV of Providence, Rhode Island. The footage was meant to be used for the program on nightclub safety. After headlining band Great White took the stage, their tour manager Daniel Biechele fired off pyrotechnics to start his band’s act off. The rest is history.
You can see from the video that cameraman Brian Butler noticed the fire early on and started wisely backing away. Most attendees didn’t do the same, quite possibly because they thought the fire was part of the act. It wasn’t. Unfortunately, by the time everyone realized that this wasn’t the act, the fire was quickly gaining hold on the nightclub and everyone panicked. The outcome of the panic was a mass of hundreds of concert goers trying to get out the same way they got in – through the main entrance.
There were all together 4 fire exits in The Station, but in the panic, people trapped inside instinctively turned towards the exit they knew, causing a major jam that kept them trapped inside. It’s hard to blame people on being desperate to get out asap, but as can be seen from the video, they made it all worse. Had they not pushed, there would be an outflow of people from the inside, but with the pressure on those partially out, the gateway was blocked resulting in no outflow.
The site where The Station nightclub tragedy took place is now an empty lot. Great White’s tour manager Daniel Michel Biechele – the person who set up and set off the pyrotechnics which caused the fire pled guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter – he basically took all guilt upon himself, which I can respect. His lawyer advised him against the plea, but Daniel Michel Biechele wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he cheated the legal system to get off easy and chose to take all the blame upon himself, apologizing to the victims of the families whose lives his actions ruined. He was sentenced to 15 years in jail, with four to serve and 11 years suspended, plus three years probation.
Michael and Jeffrey Derderian – the owners of The Station changed their plea from Not Guilty to No Contest, ultimately admitting their responsibility in the deaths of 100 people in their nightclub. Michael Derderian received the same sentence as Daniel Michel Biechele. His brother Jeffrey Derderian received a 10-year suspended sentence, three years probation, and 500 hours of community service. Not sure why one of them got of easier than the other.
The video of The Station Nightclub Fire that killed 100 people in Rhode Island is below:
This video is a 20 minutes long unedited version of the Station Nightclub Fire incident: