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Talk with Survivor of Nightclub Fire

Aired February 21, 2003 - 10:01   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get some more now on the fire and the investigation which is now getting under way. Let's go to CNN's Jason Carroll. He's been here this morning in the wee hours, as the story has been unfolding. He's there at a club in Warwick, Rhode Island.
Good morning, Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Leon.

At this point, investigators, fire investigators, have brought a crane into the area that used to be the station. They're going to be using the crane to lift heavy debris off of an area there used to be a stage and dance floor. They believe that there are more bodies located in that area. It's really been chilling to be out here all morning long and listen to the accounts of eyewitnesses who were inside the club.

Much of the video that you've been looking at from inside the club is actually -- was shot by a photographer from a local station who was doing a story on club safety. He was shooting this -- the band Great White when they were doing their opening act. The pyrotechnic displays began.

At some point, it ignited a soundproof wall. Witnesses say it was just a matter of minutes, seconds by some eyewitnesses' accounts, before the entire club engulfed in flames and smoke. The lights went out. Some saying it was nearly impossible for them to see. It was impossible, they say, for them to get out. Everyone -- nearly everyone made a run for the entrance. People were standing on top of each other. Trampling each other, trying to get out.

Earlier this morning, the lead singer of great white, his name, Jack Russell, spoke to us about what the impact of this tragedy, how it has affected him.


JACK RUSSELL, "GREAT WHITE" LEAD SINGER: It was terrible. I mean, I was, you know, I -- I mean, I would rather be, you know, in there myself than have these people dead. These are my fans, and we love them, and I just -- there's no words to describe how I feel right now. I'm in total shock. Total shock.


CARROLL: Of course, this morning, been listening to accounts from people who escaped, those people that got out.

Joining me right now is one of those people, Nicole Conant, who luckily made it out.

Nicole, I know this has been a very difficult morning for you. If you can, take me back to last night. You were inside the club. Great white begins their opening act. What happened then?

NICOLE CONANT, WITNESS: Great White took the stage, and just about a minute into their first song, a pyrotechnic effect went off and caught the foam walls that line the back of the stage, wall, it caught it on fire, and my sister and I were right up to the stage for the show.

I turned and grabbed my sister's arm and told her we had to leave, we had to get out of there. I pulled her and went to the side of the stage and went out the back door outside.

CARROLL: There were four exits, but apparently some people instinctively went for the one exit they knew, which was the one in the front. You went for the one in the back because you were familiar with the club?

CONANT: Yes, that's correct. I was familiar with the club. My sister and I were familiar with the club. We'd been there before. It also was the nearest exit. And, the door was open. I -- probably by a staff member that saw what was happening opened the door, as it's usually not open during performances.

CARROLL: You have heard accounts of the panic that ensued once everyone realized it was a fire. Describe for us the scene, if you will, once you got outside and then saw all of the injured people coming outside who were obviously in need of help.

CONANT: Right, my sister and I got out, outside, which was to the side of the building. We went around the front to the parking lot, and actually, from that back entrance, not many people came. It seemed like most of the people coming from the front doors.

CARROLL: What was that like, watching them come out?

CONANT: You know, I don't recall looking at the building much, as much as hearing the sounds of the burning building, of people inside, and then, mostly seeing people coming out of the building from the front entrance, collapsing in the parking lot or running to get away, people with all sorts of injuries.

CARROLL: Severe burns?

CONANT: Severe burns. There were some badly burned people.

CONANT: We were hearing accounts that some people who were severely burned actually the snow to try to cool themselves off.

CONANT: Yes. There was actually -- while I was helping a gentleman who had cuts to his leg, he had told me he had been pulled through a glass window that had been broken, and dragged over the jagged edges, and he thought there was glass in the wound, and he was bleeding quite heavily.

I was trying to help him, and then more and more people came out, and a few were surrounding me by a snow bank where I was with the cut man. And, they were laying their hands in these snow banks. They had burns on their hands. I was trying to put a little bit of snow over the tops of their hands, and just talk to people. It was just a horrible, terrible scene.

CARROLL: Now it becomes apparent that the club did not have the proper license that was needed in order for pyrotechnics to be used inside. When you hear about that, what are you thoughts?

CONANT: My thoughts are anger probably. And why would they be so irresponsible? However, when I was in the building, making my way out and the split second that I was there inside and leaving headed out the back, I was wondering, where was basic fire prevention? I saw no fire extinguishers, to speak of. None appeared while we were in there. No water from the sprinkler systems.

CARROLL: I want to point out that according to fire officials, sprinklers were not, surprisingly, were not required for this particular establishment because of the size, but I do remember an interview with Jack Russell that said he used a bottle of water to try to put out the flames, because there were no fire extinguishers.

CONANT: Yes. I saw someone -- I think other than Jack going on -- like coming from off stage on to the stage, but it looked like they had a bottle of water or cup of water, with this massive fire going on.

CONANT: All right. All right. Thank you very much, Nicole Conant, survivor, thank you. We really appreciate you being with us here this morning, especially on such a difficult morning.

Again, Leon, investigators out here. They are going to be continuing the process of trying to recover the bodies that they believe are buried in the area that used to be the stage -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, good deal, thank you very much, Jason.


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