On the evening of Thursday, February 20th in 2003, hundred of excited fans crammed themselves into the Station Nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island to see the band “Great White” and others perform. Though the club was legally only capable of holding 404 people, 462 were in attendance.
Pyrotechnics were a part of the show, and at the beginning of the show the tour manager ignited a flammable foam; within a few short minutes the club was going up in flames. As you can imagine, it was nothing short of pandemonium inside as panicked concert goers rushed towards the few exits; there was a stampede, and many were crushed. Unbelievably it’s said that a bouncer refused to allow many panicked people to use the exit behind the stage as it was strictly for the band.
100 people lost their lives on that night, another 230 were injured to various degrees. Most of the victims passed from smoke inhalation, burns, or they were trampled to death. A fortunate 132 people escaped with no real physical injuries, but if course that’s not to say they weren’t emotionally traumatized forever.
Among the deceased were Great White guitarist Ty Longley and DJ Mike The Doctor Gonsalves; it’s thought that these two were actually trying to save the band’s equipment when the smoke got to them. Still, the best known victim of all may be Jeff Rader. While everyone in the club was frantically searching for a way to survive, Jeff calmly stood by and watched; he had a beer in one hand, and a smoke in the other. From the photo it seems he knew survival was hopeless, so he didn’t bother trying. The photo of Jeff is believed to have been taken literally moments before his untimely demise; the gentleman who took the photo, Joe Cristina, escaped through a window.
Those affected by this devastating event filed a lawsuit against those responsible. The suit dragged on for 7 long years, but in the end the victims and their families were awarded $176,000,000.
There is video of the fire, though I’ve yet to have seen it, plus audio as one victim had a voice record in his pocket.