- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) William Kelly sat in a driving rain outside Grace Church yesterday, waiting to hear the bells toll for his niece, the latest victim of one of the country's deadliest nightclub fires.
"I keep asking the Lord, 'Why?'" said Mr. Kelly, 57. "She was such a sweetheart."
Across Rhode Island and Massachusetts yesterday, church bells pealed 98 times, once for each person killed in the Feb. 20 inferno at the Station nightclub and for the two who later died of their burns. Mr. Kelly's niece, Kelly Viera, died in a hospital Saturday.
"We thought she was in for a long, hard grind," he said, fighting back tears. His 40-year-old niece, who lived in Warwick, was married and had two daughters, he said.
Mrs. Viera and her husband, Scott, were among more than 300 people who had packed into the Station in West Warwick that night to hear the 1980s heavy-metal band Great White.
Fire investigators believe sparks from the band's pyrotechnic display ignited the nightclub's soundproofing material, triggering a fire that swept through the one-story wooden building in minutes as panicked concertgoers tried to flee.
Mr. Viera escaped, but his wife was severely burned.
"He's beating himself up because he managed to get out and she didn't," Mr. Kelly said.
Gov. Donald L. Carcieri asked that all Rhode Islanders pause yesterday "to remember those who have suffered physically and emotionally" after the blaze. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, asking residents there to observe a moment of silence, said the lives lost will "remain forever in our hearts."
As of yesterday, 51 persons injured in the fire remained hospitalized in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including 33 in critical condition.
In Ohio, mourners packed a church yesterday to remember Great White guitarist Ty Longley, the only band member killed in the fire.
"Ty is now free to tour the world," band manager Paul Woolnough told mourners at Corner House Christian Church in Hubbard, 60 miles southeast of Cleveland.
Some of the hundreds in attendance wore ribbons emblazoned with "Rock on, Ty."
As they filed into the church, brief laughter interrupted tears and sniffles as a recent picture appeared on a screen above an altar of Mr. Longley, 31, and his sister, Audrey Dinger, grinning for the camera with their cheeks stuffed with grapes.
The Rev. Jim Burks, related to Mr. Longley by marriage, said that whenever Mr. Longley couldn't make it to Ohio and western Pennsylvania from Los Angeles for holidays, he would spend his day delivering peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches to the homeless in Venice Beach.
"His heart was as big as his hair," Mr. Burks said, quoting the guitarist's mother.
Mr. Longley joined Great White about four years ago. None of the four surviving band members attended his service.
A grand jury is investigating the blaze. No charges have been filed.

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