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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Rhode Island Nightclub Owner Holds Press Conference

Aired February 22, 2003 - 18:02   ET

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

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go to West Warwick, Rhode Island, where we are going to hear from one of the nightclub's owners there.
JEFFREY DERDERIAN, RHODE ISLAND CLUB OWNER: First of all, we'd like to thank you for being here tonight.

This horrific human tragedy has devastated my family and I, as it has to all Rhode Islanders. The incredible grief we're feeling cannot truly be expressed by words.

We realize there is very little we can say that will provide comfort to the thousands of people that have been affected by this horrific tragedy. Please know that you are in our prayers. We are struggling with and enduring the unbearable shock and sadness with you.

This tragedy has claimed the lives of our friends.

Sorry.

People who are husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. We will somehow live with this grief, like so many other people, for the rest of our lives. And we'll never forget those who have been needlessly lost.

It was a total shock to me to see the pyrotechnics going off when Great White took the stage at approximately 11 p.m. Thursday night. As we said in the statement released yesterday, at no time did my brother or I have any knowledge that pyrotechnics were going to be used by the band, Great White.

No permission was ever requested by the band or any of its agents to use pyrotechnics at The Station and no permission was ever given.

It is very difficult to express what I experienced at the club that evening trying to get people out safely. Please know I tried as hard as I could. Many people didn't make it out and that is a horror that will haunt my family and I for the rest of our lives.

On behalf of my entire family I'd like to express our gratitude for the heroic efforts of fire, police and medical personnel, who quickly arrived on the scene, and to those throughout Southern New England who helped save dozens of lives that night.

We also want to thank Governor Carcieri and other federal, state, and local officials who have displayed tremendous leadership during this time of suffering. We are also grateful for the outpouring of support we have received from so many of you in the hours since this tragedy. It means so much more to us than you will ever, ever know.

There are many questions surrounding the tragedy that need to be answered. And like you, we want the answers as well.

I was interviewed on the scene Thursday night by state and local authorities and have provided all the information requested. As you know there is an investigation underway and because of that investigation we cannot answer any question from the media at this time.

Finally, my family and I continue to pray for the victims and their families in this hour of the tragedy. Thank you.

LIN: All right. That is one of the club owners, Jeffrey Derderian of The Station club in West Warwick, Rhode Island. Obviously, he is devastated, as he said, by the tragedy; 96 people dead, 86 people still hospitalized, families still going door-to-door, to hospitals looking for the missing.

He insists they too have lost friends, that they have suffered the shock and grief of this devastating loss at the club. He said he was shocked to see the pyrotechnics go off when the band started to play and that he insists that at no time was permission ever given for the pyrotechnics. It was never asked for and it was never given.

CNN's Bob Franken is stand by.

Bob, you have watched that news conference. This is the very first time that we have actually heard directly from one of the club owners on their perspective as to what happened. And still so many questions as to who is responsible.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was, of course, that claim, which was made first yesterday by the family's lawyer, that was claim is contradicted by the leader of the band, who says that in fact permission was requested and permission given to use the pyrotechnics.

As we know that is one of the fundamental questions that contributes to the investigations that are going on. And, of course, he expressed his devastation at the losses. Nobody questions that sincerity. And it is a devastation that is certainly matched by the families themselves who have lost loved ones, so many, or those who think they may have lost loved ones who just don't know.

What we saw there, of course, was a human face to something that goes beyond the numbers that we hear, the sheer magnitude of it is a story of individual tragedy magnified a 100 times or so. It is just a devastating story, a devastating occurrence here.

You have an empty spot now that once was a nightclub just a couple of nights ago. And in the spot of so many people, in the spot in their hearts now an empty spot because they've lost a loved one. LIN: That's right. And a very emotional appeal earlier today by the governor of Rhode Island, Bob, for dentists to try to help in identify some of the remains still left in the club, or the remains having been gathered, as well as to families to come forward with dental records.

FRANKEN: Apparently, they had some success with that Carol. He said in his news conference, just a short while ago, that in fact families were responding. And that dentists were responding by calling their answering machines. And when they heard instructions to please call state officials at X number. They were calling that number and having some results.

Now, this is going on, as a matter of fact, there is now one woman who is the hospital, a Massachusetts hospital, who has not yet been identified. She's Jane Doe. The other one was identified.

And they're going to again go public with information about her, later tonight. They're going to show some of her affects, release some information about her, in the hope that somebody will hear it and come forward and say this woman's name is such and such, and so and so.

LIN: Bob, very quickly, where does the investigation go from here?

FRANKEN: More questioning, more searches for evidence, trying to pin down just exactly who was to blame. To provide a basis for any civil litigation, and of course, to determine if in fact anybody has to pay a criminal penalty for this.

LIN: All right. We're going to be talking, in fact, with former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey about the liability in this case, in just a few minutes.

Thank you very much. Bob Franken reporting live.

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