Reports On R.I. Club Don't Mention Foam
Town building and fire inspectors who visited the Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I., over the past three years never reported seeing highly flammable foam that was placed on the walls as soundprTown building and fire inspectors who visited the Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I., over the past three years never reported seeing highly flammable foam that was placed on the walls as soundproofing, documents released today (March 3) showed. The inspectors documented problems from improperly installed fire extinguishers to a door near the stage that swung inward instead of out, but didn't note the black foam.
The polyurethane foam, intended as packaging material, was placed on the walls shortly after Jeffrey and Michael Derderian bought the club in 2000 because neighbors had complained of noise. Authorities suspect sparks from a pyrotechnic display used by the band Great White started the Feb. 20 fire that swept through the one-story, wooden building, killing 98 and injuring roughly twice that number.
Attorney General Patrick Lynch is leading a grand jury investigation into the blaze. He has not disclosed the specific targets of the criminal probe, but band members and their lawyers have consulted with the attorney general's office and appeared at a National Guard armory where the grand jury has been meeting.
Town Manager Wolfgang Bauer said he considers the question of the foam a secondary issue, and said investigators are focusing on the pyrotechnics as the central issue. The inspectors visited the Station at least annually to decide whether to renew its liquor license. A Nov. 27, 2002, report said the liquor license was not approved until minor problems noted in the inspections were fixed.
The liquor license was last approved in December -- and the Derderians were in the process of trying to sell the club and transfer the license just before the fire. Michael Derderian's lawyer, Kathleen Hagerty, said the brothers were given lists of things to fix following the inspections and they fixed everything pointed out to them. "To the extent that anything was pointed out as a potential violation, my clients worked to correct it," she said. Jeffrey Derderian's attorney, Jeffrey Pine, did not immediately return calls.
The problem of the stage door not swinging outward was noted in a 2001 fire inspector's report. It apparently was fixed, but was noted again in a report a year later. Bauer said the problem's recurrence suggested the door had been taken down and then put back up. However, he said there was no indication the door's configuration contributed to the death toll in the fire. Bauer could not say why the inspectors did not report the foam. "They either didn't see it or it wasn't there," he said.
The club's stage manager and sound engineer, Paul Vanner, said the foam had been there since 2000. Hagerty said the Derderians never knew the foam wasn't flame retardant. "At no time were they ever told by anyone that this foam was not appropriate," she said.
Fifty-one people remained hospitalized today, 33 of them in critical condition.
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