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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Club Fire Sparked by Pyrotechnic Display

Aired February 21, 2003 - 06:10   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: inside a home or a garage, whatever the case may be, because you have all of these sparks that come off of that. The foam that was used -- of course the fire marshal is here, as you say. The foaming that was used is used for sound, you know, so you can get the -- try to -- so you can try to get the best sort of sound when a -- when a band is playing on stage. But it was obvious from that videotape there that whatever substance was ignited, whether it be the foam, whether it be the curtains, it ignited very quickly. Witnesses say that it spread extremely quickly. So again...
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, within three minutes.

CARROLL: ... these are a number of questions that the fire marshals are going to have to answer.

COSTELLO: Something else to pass along to our viewers, Jason, Jack Russell, who is the lead singer of Great White, told a local television station he did check with the club's manager before the show and the band's piece of pyrotechnics was approved. But he said he could feel the heat of the flames while he was on stage even before the fire began.

CARROLL: Well if you look at some of that videotape, and I've seen it very briefly, but you can see one of the band members immediately jumps off the stage at one point when he -- when he realizes that the fire was about to get out of control.

In terms of checking with the club manager, once again, the fire marshal will be checking with the club manager to find out whether or not they were within code. On the surface of things, it seems hard to believe that that type of pyrotechnic type of display would be allowed in a club with such a low ceiling, with so many people. But once again, they'll have to -- they'll have to check the books. You heard the town manager, they'll have to go back, they'll have to check the record, check the books and find out whether or not the club violated some sort of a code.

COSTELLO: Yes, much more information to come out of this in the days to come.

Jason Carroll, I'll let you get back to your job so you can get more information for us from the scene.

Of course, as Jason said, one person who was inside that club was a photographer for a local television station. He was actually doing a feature story on the band Great White, the great '80's heavy metal band. He and others describe, again, what it was like when that fire broke out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN BUTLER, WPRI PHOTOGRAPHER: A lot of people did get out. The majority, I would say, got out. But to see people stacked on top of each other and others heroically jumping in and trying to pull them off the top, out of the bottom, trying to push people back just enough to get someone loose, every life was important to everybody there. And the injuries ranged from minor burns, to cuts and bruises from going through windows.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't been injured. I've been trying to help people. My sister and I are fine. We came out totally unscathed, I don't know, by some -- by some godly miracle. And this is the worst trauma and just unspeakable thing that we...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're in a state of shock.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I mean I feel like I just want to cry and cry and cry and scream.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: You can see the blood on her sleeve there. She was trying to get people out of the club because they were actually stacked up at the door and many people died near the front door of the club.

As you might imagine, many injuries from this incident, at least 165 people in the hospital, one of them Joe DiBona. A local television station talked with his father, Joe DiBona Sr., earlier and he described what was happening in the hospital and also his son's terrible injuries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE DIBONA SR., VICTIM'S FATHER: We got a call and him and his friend went to the place. His friend went to Lady of Fathom (ph) and they couldn't find my son, Joe, and we panicked. Finally went to King (ph) County Hospital. They said finally, after a half hour, an hour or so, they found out he was there, then they transported him to here, intensive care unit, trauma unit. So...

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

DIBONA: Yes.

QUESTION: Sorry, his name?

DIBONA: Joe, Joe DiBona.

QUESTION: Spell that for me? DIBONA: Capital Di, capital Bona.

QUESTION: And your name -- sir?

DIBONA: Joe, also.

QUESTION: Also Joe?

DIBONA: Yes.

QUESTION: What is his last -- what's the last name?

DIBONA: DiBona, capital Di, capital Bona.

QUESTION: Can you tell us again when you were in the hospital how...

QUESTION: Is it Joe Jr.?

DIBONA: Jr.

QUESTION: ... what did officials in there tell you? What were they doing?

DIBONA: Well they would -- they were very helpful, very helpful. I mean of course it was a -- it was a turmoil, you know, and they were very helpful, that's all I can say. You know and he's in the trauma unit, intensive care. He's heavily sedated. He's on a breathing apparatus. He's burnt pretty bad. It's devastating.

QUESTION: You were able to see him?

DIBONA: Yes, it's terrible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: The DiBona's trying to deal with their grief this morning as their son, hopefully, is recovering in the hospital. Many people had burns over much of their bodies. In fact, eyewitnesses tell us that people were running out of that club in flames (UNINTELLIGIBLE) CNN in Rhode Island this morning.

Let's take a look at this Web site right now. The heavy metal group Great White had just kicked off its concert when that fire broke out and guitarist Mark Kendall is unaccounted for, and he is the guy in the middle. You might remember the band Great White, it was known for its hit song "Once Bitten, Twice Shy." In fact, the band received a Grammy Award nomination in 1990 for that hit.

I'm on the Web site right now and there is a message to many of their fans, because the fan has kept -- the band has kept many fans through the years, it has a large following. The Web site says "I'm sitting in front of the TV, just like many of you, waiting for more news on the horrible fire at the show at The Station. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone there." And I'm sure that echoes what many people are feeling this morning. For more details on the nightclub fire, go to CNN.com. You'll find more pictures taken from inside the club when that fire broke out. It will all be there. AOL keyword CNN.

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