The owners of a Rhode Island nightclub where a 2003 fire killed 100 people said Wednesday that they have canceled plans to speak at a safety seminar in Pennsylvania because they don’t want to interfere with lawsuits over the blaze.
Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, who owned The Station nightclub in West Warwick, said in a joint e-mail Wednesday that they’ve been advised that their scheduled appearance next week could “possibly delay or affect the pending civil suits that are in process.”
“In no way do we want to further complicate or delay the progress of that lengthy process,” they added.
Several dozen people and companies that were sued after the fire have agreed to pay $176 million to settle lawsuits, though no money has been paid yet to survivors and victims’ families.
The Derderians had been invited to speak for free at the fifth annual Pennsylvania Amusement Ride Safety Seminar in Grantville, Pa., on Feb. 24. They were to address several hundred amusement park ride inspectors, operators and others in the industry. They had said they would speak about the mistakes leading up to the fire.
It was not immediately clear who advised the Derderians against speaking publicly and what, if anything, they could say that would affect the case. Their lawyer, Anthony DeMarco, declined to comment, and Jeff Derderian did not return an e-mail or phone messages seeking comment.
Phil Slaggert, who organized the seminar and invited the Derderians, said he respected the brothers’ decision.
“Hopefully, sometime in the future, the brothers will be able to participate in the conference,” Slaggert said, “because we do think that what they have to say, what they have to offer from an owner’s perspective, would be very valuable to our participants to help prevent tragedies such as the Station nightclub fire from ever happening again.”
The Feb. 20, 2003 fire began when pyrotechnics used as a stage prop by the 1980s rock band Great White set fire to cheap foam the Derderians installed as soundproofing around the stage. Besides the 100 people 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. Jeff Derderian was spared prison time; his brother was released last June after serving less than three years of his four-year sentence.
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