A lawyer for Great White frontman Jack Russell said the singer is asking for immunity from prosecution before agreeing to testify to a grand jury investigating last week’s tragic nightclub fire in Rhode Island. “We’ll be there [Friday],” attorney Neil Philbin, who represents Russell, said. “What happens next remains to be determined.”
A grand jury investigating the fire at the Station in West Warwick — the fourth-deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history — met Wednesday at a National Guard compound but no one has yet testified, sources said. Talks among lawyers took place yesterday (Feb. 27), and the grand jury was expected to reconvene today to continue its review to decide if criminal charges should be issued. Great White had just begun playing when flames broke out in the club.
Meanwhile, Gov. Don Carcieri said the death toll from the Feb. 20 fire had dropped by one, to 96, and that all the victims had been identified. The final count was determined after the medical examiner finished examining all the remains; the discrepancy came as investigators were identifying body parts. About 60 people remained hospitalized, including 36 in critical condition.
Fire investigators believe the shower of sparks from the pyrotechnic display ignited soundproofing behind the stage, sending flames through the one-story wooden building.
Those connected with the band maintain they had the nightclub’s permission to set off the display, something the club’s owners deny. Attorney Thomas Briody said when his client, Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele, met with a “high-ranking club representative” a week before the show, the Station told him the club wanted pyrotechnics.
“Any suggestion that Great White did not have permission to display pyrotechnics is simply false,” Briody said.
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