The total number of deaths from the Rhode Island nightclub fire rose to 98 Saturday as a second hospitalized victim died as a result of injuries sustained in the blaze that erupted shortly after Great White took the stage at the Station in West Warwick on February 20.
Kelly Viera died at Boston Shriners Hospital at 12:20 p.m., according to a hospital spokesperson. No other details on the deceased were available at press time.
Viera's death follows that of Linda Suffoletto, who passed away early Friday morning at Massachusetts General Hospital (see "Hospitalized Victim Of Great White Club Fire Dies").
As of Sunday morning, 51 people remained at area hospitals, including 12 at Massachusetts General and Shriners. Of the 15 who were admitted to either medical center, 10 remain in critical condition, one in good condition and one is classified as fair. Paul Dufossee arrived at MGH in fair condition Friday and was discharged two days later.
Adhering to subpoenas, members of the band arrived in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, last week for an inquiry before a grand jury. Singer Jack Russell appeared at the National Guard training center Camp Fogarty Friday, where the grand jury was convened, though he didn't offer any testimony. Friday evening he boarded a plane bound for his home in Los Angeles. It's not known whether any of his bandmates testified.
Much of what has gone on behind closed doors has been discussions between the band's attorneys and the state attorney general's office.
Despite telling the Associated Press on Friday that Russell would ask for immunity from prosecution in exchange for his grand jury testimony, the singer's attorney, Neil Philbin, informed the wire service the following day that his client had yet to ask for such sanctuary, but the possibility hadn't been ruled out.
State, local and federal investigators looking into what caused the fire and who was to blame are also examining the type of foam soundproofing insulation that hung on the Station's walls. Sparks from one of the band's pyrotechnic displays ignited the wall behind the stage causing the club to burn down within minutes.
The club's owners, Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, contend that the foam wall covering was purchased from a neighbor, Barry Warner, a salesman for American Foam Corp. Warner told the Associated Press that the Derderians wanted to buy the cheapest type available and safety was never discussed. The Derderians, meanwhile, allege that Warner told them that the eggcrate-type material they purchased was suitable to soundproof a club.
Fire safety laws prohibit the use of flammable acoustic material on the walls of any public gathering place, and American Foam Corp. owner Amar DerManouelian verified that the $575 worth of material the Derderians purchased was not flame retardant.
Instead the material, when ignited, burns like gasoline and emits a thick, toxic smoke.
While the investigation into whether criminal charges can be filed continues, talk of civil lawsuits abound in the media. According to lawyers' estimates, the AP placed the total monetary amount of the suits to go beyond the $1 billion mark.
Besides the obvious targets of Great White and the Station, other parties that may be subject to litigation include the manufacturer of the pyrotechnic effect that started the fire, American Foam Corp., concert promoters, and the architect of the 60-year-old building.
MTV News will revisit the recent nightclub tragedies in Rhode Island and Chicago and explore club safety issues in a special edition of "The Wrap" premiering Sunday at 9:30 p.m. on MTV2. The special MTV News report will air again Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., Wednesday at 12:30 p.m., Friday at 1 p.m., and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on MTV2.