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  1. #1
    Atomic Punk
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    Default Ex-Band Manager Gets Four Years in Prison for Rhode Island Nightclub Fire

    Ex-Band Manager Gets Four Years in Prison for Rhode Island Nightclub Fire

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. USA — Deb Gerfin is haunted by nightmares of her husband's final moments as flames spread across the walls and ceiling of The Station nightclub in 2003.

    "Have you ever had to tell your children that their daddy is missing and presumed dead, and hear them wail in grief?" Gerfin asked in a statement read by a prosecutor Tuesday during a sentencing hearing for the former band manager whose pyrotechnics ignited the blaze.


    "How do you convince them everything will be all right when it never will again? I have to be strong for them even when my heart is breaking," she wrote.


    Her husband, Melvin Gerfin, and 99 others were killed in the Feb. 20, 2003, inferno, many of them trapped inside the small West Warwick nightclub as people rushed the doors to escape.


    The former rock-band manager whose pyrotechnics caused a nightclub fire that killed 100 people was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison, drawing sobs and groans from victims' relatives who hoped to see the man serve more time behind bars.

    Some were so angered by the sentence given to Daniel Biechele — who could have received 10 years — that they stormed out of the courtroom. One man yelled "Typical (expletive) Rhode Island."


    "What do you think of your son now?" Patricia Belanger shouted to Biechele's mother. Belanger, who lost her 30-year-old daughter, Dina Ann DeMaio, told reporters afterward: "Now it's her turn to suffer, just like we've been suffering because of her son."

    Before sentencing, Biechele gazed downward and choked back tears as he apologized for the Feb. 20, 2003, blaze at The Station nightclub in West Warwick.

    "I don't know that I'll ever forgive myself for what happened that night, so I can't expect anyone else to," he said, his lip quivering. "I never wanted anyone to be hurt in any way. I never imagined that anyone ever would be."

    Testimony from victims' relatives Monday and Tuesday left lawyers, court officials and at one point the defendant himself in tears. Some described a grief so powerful that they could not get out of bed in the morning, and said they looked forward to nothing except being reunited with their loved ones in death.


    Biechele, 29, pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter in February in a deal he struck with prosecutors.

    He was the tour manager for the heavy metal band Great White when he lit a pyrotechnics display that ignited highly flammable foam that lined the walls and ceiling of the nightclub. The foam was used as soundproofing and was placed there by the owners after neighbors complained about noise.

    Victims included the band's guitarist Ty Longley. Many of those killed were quickly overcome by fumes emitted by the foam or became trapped in a crush at the front door.

    Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan Jr. gave Biechele less than half the sentence he could have received. Victims' families briefly thought Biechele was getting a 15-year sentence, but the judge suspended 11 years of that term.

    "We've already suffered almost that long — four years. We've already suffered that long," said Annmarie Swidwa, whose 25-year-old daughter, Bridget Sanetti, died in the fire.

    DeMaio's sister, Jessica Garvey, called the sentence "infuriating" and "ridiculous."

    "Four years is nothing," she said outside court.

    In explaining his sentence, Darigan told Biechele, "The greatest sentence that can be imposed upon you has been imposed upon you by yourself, that is having to live a life, an entire life, knowing that your actions were the proximate cause of the deaths of 100 people."

    Biechele, the first person to be sentenced for the fire, was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs and transported to the state prison in Cranston to begin serving his sentence. The owners of the club are awaiting trial on manslaughter charges.

    "I feel some compassion for Mr. Biechele, perhaps even more so for his family," Attorney General Patrick Lynch told reporters outside the courthouse. But he said he felt more for the "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people" who are more deeply affected by the fire.

    Biechele's lawyer, Tom Briody, had asked the judge to show mercy and sentence Biechele to community service.

    Briody said his client is the only person to accept responsibility and is truly remorseful, having written letters of apology to the families that will be given to them later. He added that Biechele had no way of knowing the hazardous conditions inside the club, which he likened to a tinderbox.

    Prosecutors had asked for the maximum.

    "The devastation wrought by the conduct of the defendant is unparalleled in our state's history," prosecutor Randall White said, occasionally choking up in court. "The suffering is endless, and the extent and depth of the pain is bottomless."

    The fire, the fourth-deadliest nightclub blaze in U.S. history, scarred a state small enough that many of its residents seemed to know at least one person at the club that night who was injured or killed.


    The owners of The Station, brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, are accused of installing the flammable foam and are charged with 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter — two counts for each person killed, under separate legal theories.

    Michael Derderian is scheduled to go to trial on July 31; no trial date has been set for his brother.

    Biechele has said Michael Derderian gave him permission to use the pyrotechnics at The Station; the Derderians have said he did not have permission.

    Biechele and the Derderians are also among dozens of defendants being sued by survivors of the fire and victims' relatives.
    "Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” -- Gen. George S. Patton

  2. #2
    Atomic Punk
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    05.31.14 @ 08:17 PM
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    Sounds like a fair sentence, just as long as others also do time in the can too.
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  3. #3
    Atomic Punk ZeoBandit's Avatar
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    12.14.17 @ 05:57 AM
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    I agree. That does sound pretty fair.
    "What we are dealing with here, is a complete lack of respect for the law" - Jackie Gleason, Smokey and the Bandit

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  4. #4
    Hang 'Em High jetguy5150's Avatar
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    12.14.17 @ 11:35 AM
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    "What do you think of your son now?" Patricia Belanger shouted to Biechele's mother. Belanger, who lost her 30-year-old daughter, Dina Ann DeMaio, told reporters afterward: "Now it's her turn to suffer, just like we've been suffering because of her son."

    I followed this story very closely when this horrible event happened. I think every one of us has been in a similar type of club to see a similar type of band. Nothing happened all the times I have been out to see a band but its funny how I notice where my fire exits are now when I go out.

    With that said the quote above from the article seems a bit harsh and the anger misdirected. I can appreciate that the families are devastated but directing this kind of hate towards the mother of Biechele just because she is his mother is ridiculous. "Now it's her turn to suffer,...?" Just doesn't seem right to me.
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  5. #5
    Eruption Executionor's Avatar
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    03.03.15 @ 08:24 PM
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    I was almost in a similar situation in a club in Tulsa called Cain's Ballroom. Pretty cozy place, where me and some of my buds went to go see a couple of bands. Badlands and D.A.D. were supposed to be there, but Badlands didn't show because of obvious sickness. D.A.D. took the stage and the guitarist right in front of me lit a big sparkler on his helmet. Caught the curtains on fire and everyone was pointing and shouting. The band thought we were just getting off, but they finally noticed the fire and put it out. Just a couple more minutes and it could have been ablaze.

    Back on topic. I have been in many places like this and have seen many bands in a similar situation. I don't believe that anyone but the club owners should be to blame. There HAS to be a scapegoat because I know I woul.d be one, but I don't really think anyone at all intended for anything like this to happen. Just a bad situation all around.
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  6. #6
    Atomic Punk smithjc's Avatar
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    08.04.17 @ 11:33 PM
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    That's so sad for what happened, that he's gotta live with that for the rest of his life. You can't predict something like that would happen.

    I'd have to wonder about safety precautions and all that tho, whether or not any of that was checked before they lit up the pyros. After the fact I know. It's just so sad for everyone.

    That poor guy. I feel bad for him. I agree, the family's anger is being misdirected. It was an accident.

    My opinion, of course.
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  7. #7
    no stinkin click! muffdiver's Avatar
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    Am i missing something in this....It doesn't say that he did something unexpected...
    I gotta read this again i guess.....

  8. #8
    Atomic Punk smithjc's Avatar
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    08.04.17 @ 11:33 PM
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    yeah refocus them beer goggles sir.
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  9. #9
    PM Goo with your concerns OLO's Avatar
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    12.14.17 @ 01:36 AM
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    Sad story.
    Let me get this straight we have rapists and murderers walking out of prison after 1 year for good behavior and this guy gets 4 years. This was a accident, he did not do this on purpose. I don't think him spending 4 years in prison is going to do anyone any good.
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  10. #10
    Atomic Punk BREW CREW's Avatar
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    08.27.17 @ 09:39 AM
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    I do not think that this guy meant to do anything but put on a show. Period!


    He doesn't deserve a longer sentence, as OLO suggested!

    And I am sure that the prosecuting attorneys made a point to say "Heavy Metal" more than 20 times a day during the trial. Great White....heavy metal. LOL!

    What a sad story.
    Last edited by BREW CREW; 05.11.06 at 09:23 PM.
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  11. #11
    no stinkin click! muffdiver's Avatar
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    That's kinda what I meant.....I don't think this was at all pre-meditated stuff..

  12. #12
    Atomic Punk Eddymon's Avatar
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    12.14.17 @ 06:20 PM
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    Quote Originally Posted by OLO
    Sad story.
    Let me get this straight we have rapists and murderers walking out of prison after 1 year for good behavior and this guy gets 4 years. This was a accident, he did not do this on purpose. I don't think him spending 4 years in prison is going to do anyone any good.
    Its a "he said, they said" type of thing. The band manager blames the night club owners and vice versa.
    4 years is pretty fair but I thought he would get 6-7.
    I knew 3 of the victims.
    The owners better get atleast the same or more years in prison. Its their responsibility to know what is going on in their venue. Bands should be checked out before the show starts to make sure there aren't any surprises.
    Not sure if the owners were actually there that night, but there had to have been a manager as well as security.
    Jeff Derdarian (one of the owners) is a slimy prick I can say with first hand knowledge of him when he was a reporter in Boston.
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  13. #13
    PM Goo with your concerns OLO's Avatar
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    12.14.17 @ 01:36 AM
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    So Eddymon you think these guys did this on purpose?? You think the idea was to burn the building down with all those people inside?
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  14. #14
    Good Enough EJC's Avatar
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    12.12.17 @ 01:24 PM
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    I still don't understand how the local fire marshall was not brought into all this. Somewhere along the line, a fire marshall gave a nightclub with highly flammable, toxic sound insulation and no sprinkler system a certificate of occupancy. That's the crime right there... I'd assume he had a few more political ties with the D.A. than the 26 year-old road manager for an 80's rock band. Just a sad situation for everyone involved... This dude was just a scapegoat. Someone to point the finger at, and say "There's the bad guy".

  15. #15
    Atomic Punk
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    05.31.14 @ 08:17 PM
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    Quote Originally Posted by EJC
    I still don't understand how the local fire marshall was not brought into all this. Somewhere along the line, a fire marshall gave a nightclub with highly flammable, toxic sound insulation and no sprinkler system a certificate of occupancy. That's the crime right there... I'd assume he had a few more political ties with the D.A. than the 26 year-old road manager for an 80's rock band. Just a sad situation for everyone involved... This dude was just a scapegoat. Someone to point the finger at, and say "There's the bad guy".

    ...and there you have it.

    It's been a while since I've been to a small venue but ack in 1991, I saw Pat Travers in a small Cannery Row nightclub and the City had the Fire Marshall there to inspect the stage and monitor the number of people inside. I didn't even think anything of it.

    Back in 1982 I saw KISS at the Berkeley Community Theater. About five minutes before show-time, roadies come out and start to dismantly stuff on the stage and the promoter comes out and says that due to city fire codes, KISS couldn't use any fireworks. Before the crowd got too rowdy, Paul Stanley came out and told the crowd that it was no big deal ("We don't need no fucking fireworks") and the show went on.

    Shit, come to think of it, fire departments around the country should offer training for volunteer fire marshalls so that every show could be monitored. I'd do it, spend Friday and Saturday nights at all of the hot clubs. Chicks dig firefighters. Hmmm...
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