Nearly two years after the tragic fire during a Great White concert killed 100 people, two members of the band appeared on television for the first time to talk about what happened and to meet with survivors.
Singer Jack Russell and guitarist Mark Kendall were interviewed Wednesday on CNN's "Larry King Live" about the fire that started when onstage pyrotechnics went awry, burning Rhode Island's Station nightclub to the ground (see "At Least 96 Dead At Rock Show Fire").
During the one-hour interview, they also talked about losing their guitarist, Ty Longley, to the fire and how they are supporting the Station Family Fund, an organization formed by survivors that raises money for the victims and their families.
Russell said someone pulled him out through the nightclub's back door after the fire started. "To this day I don't know [who saved me]," he said. "I kept trying to go back in and make sure my guys and people had gotten out ... never knowing that the fire was going to get as bad as it was. Nobody knew."
For Kendall, escaping the club came easier, he said, since he "saw the side door open. I felt like I should go out the door just to get out of the way so they could put it out, because it didn't look that bad."
They soon found out it was much worse than they thought. Longley didn't make it out, and neither did some of their crew.
With eight civil suits filed against several defendants — including the city of West Warwick, where the Station nightclub was located, and Russell himself — the members of Great White were hindered from discussing the actual events of that night, but lawyer Ed McPherson, who was also on the CNN show, gave a statement.
"This club was basically a horrible, tragic event waiting to happen, between the polyurethane foam on the ceiling that is petroleum based, that spreads fire faster than gasoline, to the one exit door that opened inward," he said. "There was one fire extinguisher in the entire place. They were over capacity by at least 100. Certainly, those elements, in my mind, caused this."
Still, many people blame Great White for using pyrotechnics in such a small club, and they blame the companies that sponsored or promoted the concert for doing nothing to stop them (see "Major New Lawsuit Filed Against Great White, Others For Fatal Club Fire").
Regardless of the cause of the fire, Russell and Kendall said, they're working to reach out to survivors by going back on the road in March and donating a portion of the ticket sales to the Station Family Fund. Both said writing new music is not something they're thinking about yet.
"Right now our focus is on just helping raise awareness," Russell explained. "I haven't been in that space yet, even almost two years later. I just haven't felt like writing songs yet, and I kind of feel like it's another hurdle I need to overcome. But my main goal is to keep the band touring and to try to raise money [for the fund]."
Civil suits are still pending, and Russell recently said he would not respond to allegations filed against him by the families of the victims, as he could risk facing criminal prosecution for his role in the incident.