As the fans began to pour into the club, no one had any idea of the horrible tragedy that was about to take place in a place where people were only trying to have fun. At approximately 11:07 PM, Great White hit the stage and lead singer Jack Russell began to acknowledge the crowd. Then, as pyrotechnics (indoor fireworks) began to shoot off, something went seriously wrong. As the fireworks went off, they ignited flammable sound insulation foam that was in the walls and ceilings surrounding the stage area. Within only 5 1/2 minutes, the club was completely engulfed in flames. The fire created what is known as a backdraft or an over pass where the fire quickly moves through the ceiling and then down the walls causing the entire perimeter to go up in flames.
The fire actually started seconds into the band's opening song, "Desert Moon'" as pyrotechnics were set off by the band's tour manager, Daniel Biechele. The fireworks ignited a flammable acoustic foam above the drummer's location. At first, the crowd thought that the flames were just part of the act, but very quickly it was realized that they were all in trouble. This was not just a stage prop, this was a full on fire. At this point, lead singer Jack Russell calmly shouted into the microphone..."Wow...that's not good." Within 30 seconds, the entire stage was already on fire and the band could be seen jumping off the stage.
Although there were four possible exits, most of the patrons headed for the front door where they had come in. There was only one problem...there were 462 people in capacity and a very small hallway to travel through. This mad rush caused a stampede in which many of the people were trampled on and crushed as the exit was blocked by the herd of people trying to escape. When all was said and done, their were 100 people that sadly perished that day. Approximately, 200 survivors were badly injured, either from burns, trampling, or smoke inhalation. In fact, the band's lead guitarist, Ty Longley died in the fire, as did the shows emcee, DJ Mike. One sad fact of this terrible tragedy, was numerous accounts of a bouncer stopping people that were trying to escape through the stage exit door, stating that this door was "for the band only...club policy."
Ironically, the fire was caught on video from the inception, by camera man Brian Butler, who worked for WPRI-TV in Rhode Island. Butler was actually there to interview Jeffery Derderian on a piece regarding night club safety, due to the recent fire in another club in Chicago two days earlier that claimed 21 lives. The Station Night Club Fire is the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history, with 100 deaths and 200 Plus injuries. Brian Butler, was able to film the entire fire from beginning to end and he even tried to save many people that were trapped in that building that sad evening. Brian said at one point, "When I turned around, some people were already trying to leave, and others were just sitting there going, 'Yeah, that's great!' And I remember that statement, because I was like, this is not great. This is time to leave."
Just like any other tragedies, these types of incidents always lead to investigation and new rules on safety and how to prevent further tragedies from happening. Directly after the tragedy, Governor Donald Carcieri declared a moratorium on pyrotecnic displays at venues that hold fewer than 300 people. And just like any other tragic event, of course the blame game would be played. Of course, the club owners claimed that they had not given the band permission to use pyrotechnics. Consequently, the band stated that they did have permission. After a long investigation, it was reported that if the club had a fire sprinkler system in place, that everyone would have had time to escape the club safely. During the aftermath, the clubs co-owners and the band's tour manager were all charged with 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter. The club was also fined 1.7 million dollars for failing to carry workers compensation for its employees, four of whom died that night.
No matter what theories exist and no matter who agrees or disagrees with who is to blame, there is nothing that will bring back these 100 souls. The fact is, 100 innocent people died that evening. 100 people who will never be with their family and friends again. Parents lost children. Husbands lost wives. Wives lost husbands. Children lost parents. Friends lost friends. Any time that there is a horrific tragedy like the Station Fire, it is important to remember the lives that were lost that day. These 100 people were not sacrificed for nothing. Everything happens for a reason and I believe that these people died in order to raise awareness and safety in public places so that this type of accident does not occur again.
Great White frontman, Jack Russell has tried to have many benefit concerts to raise money for the families and to help in making a memorial. These efforts have mostly gone to the wayside as many of the families choose to blame Russell and still fail to forgive the singer. Let us face it, I am pretty sure that Jack Russell is haunted by this evening every day of his life. I am pretty sure that if he could change things and take things back, that he would not have allowed these fireworks at the show that night. I am pretty sure that if he could take back even playing the concert that night, so that those 100 people may still be alive, that he would. The point is, everyone goes through suffering and grief at many points of our lives. However; there is a time where we must move on and accept what life has thrown our way. Holding grudges and hatred does not solve anything and only continues to grow the harm inside of us. Here is a poem that I have written in tribute to the 100 people that lost their lives that evening as well as their family and friends.
"-It was a bitter cold night in February.
-The stage was set the fans were everywhere.
-The band began to play as the fans looked on in awe.
-Something went very wrong can't believe what we saw.
-Fire and brimstone lit up the night.
-Mass chaos erupted as the fire burned bright.
-100 Souls that perished we will never forget.
-The lone survivors live on with regret.
-Just remember one thing that is a fact.
-Jesus took them in his hand before anyone could react.
-To the family and friends I pray this prayer.
-That you may find peace and forgiveness and an end to despair.
-One day you will see your loved ones again for now they are angels.
-Hold on to the promise of Jesus and never forget these people."
Here is a documentary from the ten year anniversary of the tragedy: