Owners in Rhode Island Club Fire Case to Talk at Pennsylvania Seminar

February 17, 2010

The brothers who owned a Rhode Island nightclub where a fire killed 100 people seven years ago will appear at a safety seminar in Pennsylvania this month to offer their most detailed discussion of the disaster since it happened.

Jeffrey and Michael Derderian will speak Feb. 24 at the fifth annual Pennsylvania Amusement Ride Safety Seminar in Grantville, Pa., according to the Web site of a charity the brothers created to raise money for children whose parents died in the fire.

Organizers say the Derderians won’t be paid for their appearance.

The address, their first joint public appearance since they were sentenced in 2006, will come just days after the seventh anniversary of the Feb. 20, 2003, fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick. The blaze began when pyrotechnics used as a stage prop by the 1980s rock band Great White set ablaze cheap foam that the Derderians had installed as soundproofing.

Besides the 100 killed, more than 200 others were injured in the fourth-deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history.

The Derderians pleaded no contest in September 2006 to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Jeffrey Derderian was spared prison time; his brother was released last June after serving less than three years of his four-year sentence. He said at the time that he wanted to discuss his experiences publicly in hopes of preventing a similar disaster.

The brothers will address several hundred amusement park inspectors and other industry professionals from around the country, said Phil Slaggert, an organizer of the seminar who invited the Derderians.

“They have firsthand knowledge from an owner’s perspective of a very tragic and unique incident in U.S. history, and I think our participants could benefit from hearing that firsthand,” said Slaggert, president of the Mobile Midway Safety Institute in Florida.

Slaggert said he expected the Derderians to discuss the fire but didn’t know exactly what they would say.

The brothers have never spoken extensively in public about the fire. At a news conference two days after it, they expressed sorrow and said they had been unaware that pyrotechnics would be used. And they’ve also said that they wished they had known the foam was dangerous.

But many victim’ relatives say they feel the Derderians have never shown enough remorse for their actions or have tried to pass blame onto others.

Jeffrey Derderian said in a statement that the brothers would “share our experiences before, during and after the fire so that others can learn” from the mistakes. His brother said in a separate statement that the brothers would stress that “even those with professional training like inspectors and building officials can miss things.”

The comment was a reference to the multiple inspections that were done before the fire in which the soundproofing foam was never cited as illegal or flammable.

The brothers, along with friend Jody King, who lost a brother in the fire, formed The Station Education Fund in 2007 to help pay the education costs of the several dozen children who lost parents in the fire.

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