Settlements Near for Victims of 2003 Great White Nightclub Fire
Nearly seven years after a fire at Rhode Island’s the Station venue killed 100 people during a Great White concert, a federal judge yesterday approved a plan to start issuing over 300 settlements to the victims and their families, the Providence Journal reports. The plaintiffs in the case will reportedly begin to receive money from the $176 million settlement fund in a matter of months, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Ronald R. Lagueux said.
The court also approved a report that declared how much each plaintiff will be allocated from the settlements, with those who received the worst burns getting a higher settlement from the fund. Once all the papers are signed, some defendants will have 30 days to pay while others will get 90 days, the Providence Journal writes. “I think this is a red-letter day for the Station fire case,” Lagueux said from his bench. “We’re on our way. This is a matter that will live ’til death do us part.” Lagueux also commended lawyers for their ability to work out a settlement with such a large number of plaintiffs.
During the Great White concert on February 20th, 2003, the band’s tour manager Daniel Biechele ignited a pyrotechnic display, and the sparks inflamed the venue’s soundproofing foam. The flames quickly engulfed the venue and a stampede for the Station’s front door ensued. Of the over 460 people in attendance, 100 died, including Great White guitarist Ty Longley. The incident was captured on video by Providence’s WPRI, who were at the Station doing a story on nightclub safety. The Station tragedy was the fourth-deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history.
Following the tragedy, Biechele was charged and ultimately pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter in February 2006 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Biechele was later paroled and released in March 2008. The Station’s owner Michael Derderian received a similar sentence and was also later paroled. Among those who were ordered to contribute to the settlement fund include Great White, who gave $1 million, and WPRI, who agreed to a $30 million settlement after it was deemed that their cameras were blocking one of the club’s four exits. The $176 million settlement also includes payments from Anheuser-Busch, Clear Channel and Home Depot.
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For more on the Station fire, Rolling Stone‘s full coverage can be found here.
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