2017 BET Awards

Great White Tour Manager: Pyro Documents Destroyed

Great White's tour manager told Rhode Island investigators he has paperwork outlining the band's general use of pyrotechnics, but he said all the documents specific to the show that led to a deadly ni

Great White's tour manager told Rhode Island investigators he has paperwork outlining the band's general use of pyrotechnics, but he said all the documents specific to the show that led to a deadly nightclub fire were destroyed in the blaze.

According to court documents, Dan Biechele told investigators the paperwork from the booking of Great White's Feb. 20 concert at the West Warwick, R.I., club the Station burned. However, Biechele said he did have generic forms stating the band's terms and conditions, including the use of pyrotechnics. Investigators say sparks from the pyrotechnics started the blaze that killed 98 people and injured nearly 190. A grand jury is investigating.

Biechele has maintained that he received permission from the club's owners, brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, to set up pyrotechnics for the concert. The Derderians say they never were asked about pyrotechnics and never gave permission. Biechele's Rhode Island attorney, Tom Briody, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Ed McPherson, a California-based attorney for the band, said Great White had never used the special effects before this latest tour. "They decided that they were going to spruce it up a little bit. So they said, 'Why don't we try this?'" McPherson said. Biechele, he said, made sure that he carefully explained all about the pyrotechnics to every club prior to the performance and received explicit permission to use it.

About a week before the nightclub fire, he got permission from club owner Michael Derderian, McPherson said. "I believe it was by phone, which is consistent with what he did with other shows." Officials at clubs in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Maine where Great White recently played have said the band used pyrotechnics but failed to notify the management.

Police have searched the band's tour bus and taken fax sheets for Great White's pyro order, three performance agreements, other unspecified documents, computer equipment, and electrical gear, according to an inventory of what was seized. They also found a ledger and other documents in a safe in the club's ruins, court document show.

The court documents also show that a neighbor of the Station said he had told club owners they could soundproof the building with packing foam. The soundproofing is considered a key part of the investigation. Investigators believe the fire quickly spread through the highly flammable foam. State law bars highly flammable material from being used as soundproofing in clubs and bars.

Club neighbor Barry Warner, who worked for a foam company, told investigators he was approached by one of the Derderian brothers shortly after they bought the Station in March 2000. Warner, who lives behind the building, said the co-owner wanted to address Warner's complaints about noise at the club, and once the brothers found out he worked for the American Foam Corp., they started talking about the foam.

"Warner informed the Derderians that they could purchase the foam and use it as a form of sound-absorbing material," according to a police search warrant affidavit. Warner, who no longer works for American Foam, said the affidavit didn't accurately represent his conversation with state and federal investigators. "There's a lot of inaccuracies," Warner said, declining further comment.

Michael Derderian's attorney, Kathleen Hagerty, has said the brothers deferred to Warner as the expert on a foam they believed to be appropriate soundproofing. American Foam president Aram DerManouelian has said the club bought $575 worth of the foam in mid-2000 and bought the "cheapest" material.

The investigative documents also describe details from probe by the police and Rhode Island Attorney General's office. They refer to the "egg crate foam" on the ceiling and walls. "It would appear at this time that this material was NOT made of a fire retardant material but rather was highly combustible which served to feed the fire and cause it to spread rapidly," detectives wrote.

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