Glance: Updates on key figures in deadly RI fire

February 19, 2013 - 4:30 PM
RI Nightclub Fire

FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2006 file photo, Michael Derderian, left, and brother Jeffrey Derderian stand in Kent County Superior Court in Warwick, R.I., during a sentencing hearing for a 2003 fire at their West Warwick nightclub that killed 100 people. Ten years later, the imprint of the fire remains - including in the state's strict fire code, passed soon after the blaze, that requires all nightclubs like The Station to install sprinklers. (AP Photo/Bob Breidenbach, Pool, File)

Updates on key figures in the nightclub fire that killed 100 people in Rhode Island 10 years ago:

NIGHTCLUB OWNERS MICHAEL AND JEFFREY DERDERIAN

The brothers, co-owners of The Station nightclub in West Warwick, had installed the flammable foam that caught fire. Both pleaded no contest in 2006 to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Jeffrey received a suspended sentence; Michael was sentenced to serve four years in prison because he bought the foam. Michael served less than three years and was released in 2008.

Both still live in Rhode Island with their families. They started a charity in 2007 to provide scholarships and other educational help to children of people killed in the fire, although so far it has only helped three children with college scholarships, and one of them had to drop out because she couldn't afford it.

Before the fire, Jeffrey was a reporter at WPRI-TV. He now works at Lang Pharma Nutrition, a Newport-based company that manufactures and develops food products. He also has written a regular "media criticism" column for a local news website, GoLocalProv, although his column has not appeared for several months.

Michael was involved in various business ventures before the fire but has not been steadily employed since getting out of prison, said family friend Jody King.

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GREAT WHITE TOUR MANAGER DANIEL BIECHELE

Biechele lit the pyrotechnics that set fire to the foam. He pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter in 2006 and served less than two years of his four-year sentence. After his sentencing, Biechele sent handwritten letters to the families of all 100 people killed to express remorse.

He was released in 2008 and moved back to his home state of Florida. He has left the music business and is employed as a comptroller, said his lawyer, Tom Briody. Biechele is married and lives outside Orlando with his family.

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GREAT WHITE LEAD SINGER JACK RUSSELL AND GUITARIST MARK KENDALL

The two founded Los Angeles-based rock band Great White, which reached its peak with its 1989 hit song "Once Bitten, Twice Shy," nominated for a Grammy Award.

They took the stage shortly after 11 p.m. Feb. 20, 2003, when their tour manager lit the pyrotechnics that sparked the fire. Guitarist Ty Longley was killed. After the blaze, the band toured to raise money for the Station Family Fund, which benefited people affected by the fire. They raised $185,000.

Since then, they have toured but never saw the same success they did decades ago. In recent years, Russell has suffered from health and drug problems, including some so severe that he had to be hospitalized. He and Kendall have parted ways and are both performing in bands that use the name Great White. They are in a legal dispute over who can use the name.

Russell and his band, Great White Featuring Jack Russell, held a benefit concert in California this month. He initially announced it would benefit The Station Fire Memorial Foundation, which is working to build a permanent memorial at the site of the fire, but the foundation asked him to take its name off the concert due to "resentment and animosity" still felt by many of the families and survivors.

Instead, Russell's publicist says, he donated the proceeds to Acey Longley, Ty Longley's son, born several months after the fire.

Neither band has been back to Rhode Island.

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WEST WARWICK FIRE MARSHAL DENIS LAROCQUE

Larocque failed to cite the club for using cheaper, flammable foam in place of typical soundproofing material during multiple inspections of the building before the fire. The club's capacity was also revised upward, allowing more people to pack the club. He told investigators and a grand jury that he missed the foam in part because he was focused on a stage door that swung the wrong way.

Larocque retired on disability in 2008. Later that year, Rhode Island and West Warwick each agreed to pay $10 million to settle lawsuits brought by families. They were sued in part because of Larocque's failure to cite the club for the foam.

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FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL PATRICK LYNCH

Lynch took office the month before the fire and oversaw the criminal case. He was harshly criticized by families for not charging more people. Later, when Biechele and then the Derderians struck plea deals, he became the target of even more acrimony — although he said he opposed the Derderians being allowed to plead no contest.

A Democrat from a prominent political family, he was reelected to a second term just weeks after the Derderians' sentence. He ran for governor in 2010 but dropped out after his campaign failed to gain traction. Since then, he has founded his own law practice.

Lynch flew to Brazil on Monday and will meet with officials investigating a recent nightclub fire there that killed more than 230 people and was also sparked by pyrotechnics, his sister said Tuesday.