- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

WEST WARWICK, R.I., Feb. 24 (UPI) — Relatives of victims of the flash fire at a night club visited the site of the burned-out building while Rhode Island's governor said the death toll had increased to 97.

Gov. Don Carcieri said a body had been found Sunday morning in the wreckage of The Station night club, bringing the death toll of the fire at the club to 97. Another 80 people remained hospitalized Sunday with injuries suffered in the blaze late Thursday.

Some 42 of the bodies have been identified and Carcieri told the Providence Journal the remaining victims would be identified Monday.

"We've gone over and over the site and, hopefully, there are not any more" bodies in the rubble, Carcieri said at a news conference at the state Emergency Management Agency headquarters in nearby Cranston. Another news conference was scheduled for noon EST Monday.

Officials were trying to determine whether the rock band Great White had permission to use pyrotechnic effects during their show Thursday. Bright sparklers were set off as the band opened its act about 11 p.m. before more than 300 people in The Station. The fireworks apparently ignited sound proofing material at the rear of the stage and the blaze quickly engulfed the building.

Carcieri ordered a state-wide ban on the use of pyrotechnic effects at clubs with Class C licenses — which The Station had — and with an occupation range of 50-300 people. Some 200 deputy fire marshals will be sent across the state Monday to inspect small clubs for potential fire problems. Larger venues are unaffected.

The owners of The Station, Jeffrey and Michael Derderian have said they had not given Great White permission to use fireworks. An attorney for the band disputed that allegation in an interview with Fox News.

On Sunday afternoon, relatives of the victims were allowed to visit the site of the fire. Aircraft were banned from a five-mile radius around the site, to give the families privacy, Carcieri said. Buses took the group to the scene where the West Warwick Fire Department had set out roses for the families.

A series of public memorial services have been organized, including a 6 p.m. EST ceremony at the West Warwick Civic Center.

John Mellini told the Journal he was in a band that used pyrotechnics at The Station when it performed last May, but on a smaller scale than Great White's effects.

He added that his wife was a bartender at The Station. While she was able to escape uninjured, other friends were not. Mellini told the newspaper: "We already have five funerals to go to. There's a lot of pain."

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