Night­club fire foun­da­tion spurns singer, ben­e­fit con­cert

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Michelle R. Smith

PROV­I­DENCE, R.I. — A foun­da­tion work­ing to build a per­ma­nent me­mo­rial at the site of a deadly 2003 night­club fire caused by a band’s py­rotech­nics has asked the lead singer to take the foun­da­tion’s name off a ben­e­fit con­cert.

The fire at The Sta­tion night­club in West War­wick was started when py­rotech­nics for the heavy metal band Great White ig­nited flammable foam that lined the club’s walls and ceil­ing. It killed 100 peo­ple and in­jured more than twice that many. The 10th an­niver­sary is Feb. 20.

The band’s lead singer at the time, Jack Rus­sell, an­nounced on Tues­day that he would play a Feb. 7 ben­e­fit for the Sta­tion Fire Me­mo­rial Foun­da­tion in a club in Her­mosa Beach, Calif., near Los An­ge­les. Mem­bers of the foun­da­tion learned of the show Wed­nes­day, Vic­to­ria Ea­gan, the foun­da­tion’s vi­cepres­i­dent, told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Fri­day. Mem­bers of the group did not wish to be as­so­ci­ated with the event and im­me­di­ately be­gan work­ing to get Rus­sell to drop his use of its name.

“This is due to the re­sent­ment and an­i­mos­ity still felt by many of the fam­i­lies and sur­vivors that our very or­ga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sents,” the foun­da­tion wrote in a state­ment. “We feel that the up­set caused by his involvement would out­weigh the amount of funds raised at this event.”

In a state­ment to the AP Fri­day, Rus­sell said he would hon­our the re­quest and do­nate the money from his show to a dif­fer­ent char­ity that he would de­ter­mine soon.

“I am ut­terly sad­dened by the re­sponse of the foun­da­tion and the mo­tives be­hind it,” he wrote.

Great White held ben­e­fit con­certs af­ter the fire, Ea­gan said, and raised about $185,000 for the Sta­tion Fam­ily Fund, a char­ity that helped peo­ple who were se­verely burned, chil­dren who had lost par­ents and oth­ers. She said that at that time, there was back­lash from some fam­i­lies, but board mem­bers de­cided peo­ple so des­per­ately needed the money it didn’t mat­ter where it came from.

That fund agreed to al­low the band to raise money in its name, and agreed ahead of time that band mem­bers would not be mak­ing money off the per­for­mances, she said. Their as­so­ci­a­tion ended in 2005.

Since then, band mem­bers agreed to pay $1 mil­lion to set­tle law­suits brought by fam­i­lies of those killed, although they did not ad­mit wrong­do­ing. The band’s tour man­ager, Daniel Biechele, who lit the py­rotech­nics, pleaded guilty to 100 counts of manslaugh­ter. The brothers who owned the club pleaded no con­test.

Rus­sell and Great White have split and are ar­gu­ing over who has rights to the name of the band.


The burned out re­mains of the Sta­tion night­club in a Feb. 21, 2003 file photo.

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