The girlfriend of late Great White guitarist Ty Longley, who died in February 2003 in the Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island, is one of more than 200 plaintiffs named in a major new civil lawsuit against the band, the club owners, town officials and other companies alleged to have been responsible for the blaze that killed 100 and injured more than 200. Longley's girlfriend was pregnant with their child at the time.
The fire started when pyrotechnics shot off by Great White ignited foam soundproofing on the walls. Within minutes, the club burned to the ground (see "At Least 96 Dead At Rock Show Fire").
Eight lawyers filed the lawsuit on behalf of 146 people who were injured in the fire and the families of 80 who were killed. The suit names many defendants with deep pockets, some of whom had never been mentioned in connection with the fire, including insurance firm Lloyd's of London, engineered components and material company Leggett & Platt and CBS Broadcasting, whose affiliate Channel 12 had hired club co-owner Jeffrey Derderian as an investigative reporter.
Others, whose names resurfaced from previously filed suits, included companies that had sponsored, promoted or advertised the concert, such as Anheuser-Busch and their Rhode Island distributor McLaughlin & Moran; Clear Channel Communications and WHJY-FM. The suit alleges that the companies should have been aware that Great White typically used unlicensed pyro in small clubs and did nothing to prevent the band from doing so.
Also named in the suit: the manufacturers and vendors of the pyro equipment and the foam that caught fire; state and government officials assigned to inspect the club and promote fire safety; the bus company whose vehicle Great White rode to West Warwick; and the band's former manager, Daniel Biechele, who set off the fireworks.
In a separate criminal suit, Biechele and club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian are under indictment on 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter (see "Great White Manager, Club Owners Hit With Criminal Charges"). The three have pleaded not guilty.
The new suit raises the heat on Jeffrey Derderian, who is accused of engaging in a conflict of interest by working as a TV reporter but not revealing the unsafe conditions at his own club. The suit also names Channel 12 photographer Brian Butler, who filmed the horrifying footage inside the club the night it burned down. According to the suit, the night of the Station fire, Derderian and Butler were working on an investigation on club safety for CBS affiliate LIN Television Corporation, which was assigned following a deadly stampede in a Chicago nightclub just three days earlier.
Attorneys for the Derderians could not be reached for comment.