- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 3, 2008

Settlement reached in fire lawsuit

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A TV station and a cameraman accused of getting in the way of people fleeing a nightclub fire that killed 100 persons have reached a tentative $30 million settlement with survivors and victims’ relatives, station officials said yesterday.

It’s the largest settlement of several reached so far with the dozens of people and companies who sued over the Feb. 20, 2003, fire at the Station nightclub. The blaze began when pyrotechnics used by the 1980s rock band Great White ignited highly flammable soundproofing foam around the stage.

Brian Butler, a cameraman for WPRI-TV, was at the West Warwick nightclub gathering footage for a segment on safety in public places. His video formed the most complete record of the early moments of the fire, revealing the rapid spread of flames and the frantic rush for the exits.

Attorneys for the victims accused Mr. Butler of impeding the crowd’s exit through the front door, where many of the bodies were found. He and his attorney, Chip Babcock, have denied the claim.

With snowplow gone, train moves on

SAN FRANCISCO — A train stuck overnight in the Northern California mountains resumed its journey yesterday after a snow plow that was blocking the tracks was removed, officials said.

Two Amtrak trains and about 400 passengers were initially stranded after the accident Friday. One train was pulled to Reno, Nev., and its 165 passengers were put up in a hotel, Amtrak spokeswoman Karina Romero said.

The other train, which was headed from Emeryville to Chicago, remained in the mountains until the tracks were cleared yesterday morning.

The train had heating and lights and passengers were given food, Miss Romero said. No injuries were reported.

A Union Pacific spokeswoman, Zoe Richmond, confirmed the company’s equipment was blocking the tracks but had no other information.

Groundhog predicts more winter

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. — Brace yourself for more wintry weather.

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow yesterday, leading the groundhog to forecast six more weeks of winter.

The rodent was pulled from his stump by members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle, businessmen wearing tuxedos and top hats who carry out the tradition.

Gen. Beauregard Lee, Punxsutawney Phil’s counterpart in Lilburn, Ga., did not see his shadow yesterday at the Yellow River Ranch — a sign that spring will come early.

It was the third year in a row the two groundhogs’ predictions differed.

Special police teams to patrol subways

NEW YORK — Teams of police officers equipped with submachine guns and bomb-sniffing dogs have become a part of the landscape of post-September 11 New York, patrolling around Wall Street and such landmarks as the Empire State Building.

Similar squads are set to begin daily patrols of the busiest sections of the city subways this month, in what officials describe as a first for a U.S. mass-transit system.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Friday that a major boost in funding from the Department of Homeland Security made the extra protection possible for the city’s vast subway system, long considered a potential target for terrorists.

“Whether conventional crime or terrorist threat, we will not let our guard down,” Commissioner Kelly said at a press conference at Grand Central Terminal, where officials announced the increase in security dollars.

Teams comprising a sergeant, five officers and a bomb-sniffing dog will circulate each day on subway platforms and trains, focusing on high-traffic spots, officials said.

From staff reports and wire dispatches

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