Could serve up to 10 years.
Former Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele’s guilty plea of involuntary manslaughter relating to a deadly 2003 nightclub fire is a sobering development for the touring industry.
But the repercussions of the East Warwick, R.I., tragedy were likely most felt more than three years ago when Biechele and Station club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian were initially charged (Billboard, Dec. 20, 2003).
In the months and years following the fire, tighter restrictions have been placed on the use of pyrotechnics across the country, and a heightened sense of awareness is prevalent at all levels of concert production.
“The tighter restrictions and heightened awareness were the only positive things that came out of this,” Great White lead attorney Ed McPherson tells Billboard, “but those things potentially saved thousands of lives.”
Biechele will enter the guilty plea to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter next week and serve no more than 10 years in prison under the deal with prosecutors, according to Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan (Billboard.biz, Feb. 1).
Biechele’s role in the Feb. 20, 2003, blaze at the Station was igniting the pyrotechnic devices—gerbs— at the start of the show, which led to an inferno that killed 100 and injured more than 200. He maintained he had permission and the club owners say he did not.
Both Biechele and the Derderian brothers were charged with 200 counts each of involuntary manslaughter, two counts for each of the 100 people killed. One count per death alleged criminal negligence, the other accused the defendants of committing underlying offenses that led to the deaths.
The Derderians are accused of installing the flammable soundproofing foam in violation of the state fire code and have pleaded not guilty.