Skip to main content
CNN International EditionU.S.
The Web     
Powered by
CNN Access

Pyrotechnics expert: 'Anything could go wrong'

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

Fireworks erupted from several parts of The Station's stage as the band began to play for the crowd.
Fireworks erupted from several parts of The Station's stage as the band began to play for the crowd.

Story Tools

Pyrotechnic 'Gerbes'
-- The effects that ignited the deadly nightclub fire are called "gerbes," from the French word for sparks.

-- "Gerbes" are simple contraptions, consisting of a powder charge inside a floor-mounted tube or pipe about an inch in diameter.

-- The charge is usually ignited by an electric spark that is triggered by remote control, shooting a tower of flame into the air.

-- A metal additive in the charge, such as titanium or tungsten, gives the flame a sparkling effect.

Source: The Associated Press

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- A pyrotechnics display is being blamed for a fire that tore through The Station nightclub in Rhode Island on Thursday night, killing scores of concertgoers at a performance by the metal band Great White.

Pyrotechnician Pete "Pyro Pete" Cappadocia talked with CNN's Arthel Neville about the pyrotechnics that might have been used during the performance.

NEVILLE: Pete, you know, the stage manager at the Stone Pony [where Great White used pyrotechnics at a performance last week], his name is Chris Glowicki, he said he had no idea that the band was going to be using pyrotechnics. Is that possible?

CAPPADOCIA: That's very possible. It's very easy. Just as, you know, a kid can go steal the keys to the car and go take it around the block. ... The device ... looks like [it has] three fountains that shot 15 or 20 feet in the air. I tried to time it on my stopwatch using the footage that you guys are showing -- [it] looks to [have been] burning approximately 10 seconds.

That device is a very small device. It's very easy, very easy to sneak in. And [it] wouldn't even need to be snuck in. [It] could have just been brought in and placed down.

And in the scale of drum risers and back-line equipment and gear that's normally brought on the stage, it's maybe two to three times the size of a pack of cigarettes.

NEVILLE: Wow. So Pete, even under a controlled environment, under which circumstances you work in, what could possibly happen? What could possibly go wrong?

CAPPADOCIA: Anything could go wrong. Fireworks, pyrotechnics -- I just have one quick thing. The lawyer that wrote a book and talked about pyrotechnics was interesting because he talked about explosives. We don't use explosives. [An] explosive is a different class; it burns faster, it explodes. Our stuff does not explode. There's a different between explosion and deflagration and combustion.

What we use burns slow. It's made for visual impact. Yes, it's hot; yes, it could set things on fire.

Like they mentioned earlier, if they'd have known they were going to use pyrotechnics, they would have had additional fire extinguishers. Part of getting a permit -- if the building has 10 fire extinguishers but I'm going to do pyrotechnics, I know that I have to bring in additional fire extinguishers.

And the fire department would also tell me to bring in additional fire extinguishers because I now have increased the odds of causing a fire in that building.

NEVILLE: Indeed.

CAPPADOCIA: Thus needing more fire suppression.

NEVILLE: Well, "Pyro Pete" Cappadocia, thank you very much for lending your expertise and insider information on that particular angle of the story.

Story Tools
Click Here to try 4 Free Trial Issues of Time! cover
Top Stories
Father guilty of killing 9 of his children
Top Stories
EU 'crisis' after summit failure

On CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNN AvantGo CNNtext Ad info Preferences
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.