Manslaughter Charges Likely in R.I. Nightclub Fire

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Six months after a Rhode Island nightclub blaze killed 100 people, prosecutors are expected to seek involuntary manslaughter indictments of the owners of The Station club and the rock band tour manager who set off the illegal indoor fireworks that ignited the blaze, the Boston Globe says.

Defense lawyers whose clients are under investigation say they expect Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, the brothers who owned The Station, and Daniel Biechele, the road manager for the band Great White, to face charges. Lawyers say it is unlikely there will be indictments of the members of Great White, who approved of Biechele’s use of the pyrotechnics, and of the salesman and manufacturers of the highly flammable foam that lined the walls of the club and accelerated the blaze.

The investigation is expected to be completed and indictments handed up in October.

Lawyers told the Globe the investigation has determined that the deaths in the Feb. 20 blaze, the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in American history, were not the result of intentional acts but rather resulted from criminal negligence, and will support indictments for involuntary manslaughter. The courts define such negligence as “wanton or reckless conduct” likely to cause harm to another, a standard established by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in upholding the conviction for manslaughter of the owner of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub, scene of a catastrophic 1942 blaze. The West Warwick, R.I., fire erupted when a 15-second spray of fireworks was set off at the start of a set by Great White.


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