- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2003

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) Members of the rock group Great White have been subpoenaed by prosecutors and said yesterday that they will appear before a grand jury investigating whether criminal charges should be filed in the nightclub inferno that killed 97 persons.
The grand jury is expected to convene today, law-enforcement officials said on the condition of anonymity.
Band publicist Byron Hontas said the musicians are cooperating with authorities and expect to testify early next week.
Investigators are trying to determine who is to blame for the fire Thursday that was apparently sparked by the band's pyrotechnics. Flames swept through the West Warwick club, the Station, in minutes.
The band has said it received approval to use the special effects, but the club's owners have denied giving permission.
It could not be immediately determined whether the club's owners, brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, have received subpoenas. Their attorney, Kathleen Hagerty, did not return calls yesterday, and the Attorney General's Office declined to comment.
Police searched the Narragansett home of Michael Derderian on Sunday, according to a law-enforcement source.
Attorney General Patrick Lynch has said he does not believe the Derderians have cooperated with investigators, but spokesman Mike Healey said yesterday: "We're not pitting the band against the Derderians."
Meanwhile, Gov. Don Carcieri said 93 of the 97 bodies have been identified. The governor also said there was a discrepancy between the number of persons reported missing and those confirmed dead, and search crews using dogs were expected to go over the charred ruins again to look for bodies.
"This is a tough, very, very tough process and the families and the impacts of this thing are rippling throughout the state," Mr. Carcieri said.
The fire also injured nearly 190 people; about 60 remain hospitalized, including 40 in critical condition.
Legal experts and fire investigators said the Derderians or members of the band Great White or both could be indicted on such charges as criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter, or murder.
"It is pretty obvious that there was some joint responsibility. Maybe the issue is not which one to charge, but what to charge both with," said Donald Bliss, president of the National Association of State Fire Marshals and the New Hampshire fire marshal.
Edward Ryan Jr., an attorney who represented a homeless man charged with manslaughter in a 1999 fire that killed six Massachusetts firefighters, compared the Rhode Island case to Boston's Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire that killed 492 persons in 1942.
In that fire, the nightclub owner was charged with negligent manslaughter for having an overcrowded club with locked exit doors, an act that showed he disregarded known risks to life, Mr. Ryan said. He added that the bar boy suspected of starting the fire when he lit a match was not charged because the 1942 deaths were caused by an unsafe building.
Mr. Ryan said the grand jury could find the club owners and the band committed "affirmative acts" that caused the deaths the band by using pyrotechnics without a permit, and the Derderians by not making sure no fire hazards were present. He cited reports that pyrotechnics had been used in the club by other bands.
"If they had 70 shows in the last three years and 35 of those involved pyrotechnics of some sort, that leads to a fair inference that they knew of or should have known what was going on in their club," Mr. Ryan said. "But clearly, whoever set up that display the band is a potential target, whether they had permission or not."


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