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Forensics show nightclub death toll down to 96

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Investigators examine a CD found Thursday near the front door of The Station nightclub.

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Members of the band Great White are among witnesses to testify about the fire that killed 96 clubgoers. CNN's Bob Franken reports (February 26)
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Authorities made a public plea to the owners of the Rhode Island nightclub that caught fire, killing 96 people, and subpoenaed the band Great White. CNN's Brian Cabell reports (February 26)
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WEST WARWICK, Rhode Island (CNN) -- The death toll in last week's Rhode Island nightclub fire has been reduced by one to 96, Gov. Don Carcieri said Thursday afternoon.

Carcieri said forensic scientists have identified all the remains and are satisfied with the current death toll.

"There was one missing person report but we do not believe that report is a person who was the victim of the fire," the governor said.

But while reducing the death toll, he issued a grim reminder:

"We are not out of the woods in terms of fatalities by a long shot. We have many, many very ill people in hospitals," Carcieri said. In addition to the fatalities, more than 180 people were injured in last week's nightclub fire and more than 30 of them remain in critical condition, suffering from serious burns.

Carcieri and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, visited some of those hospitalized victims Thursday.

Residents of West Warwick were still dazed Thursday, a week after heavy metal band Great White's pyrotechnics ignited a fast-moving fire that engulfed The Station nightclub in less than five minutes.

Funerals began Wednesday for the victims of the February 20 fire and continued Thursday.

Two surviving members of the band, a retooled '80s group known for the hit "Once Bitten, Twice Shy," returned to West Warwick to testify before a grand jury that has launched a probe into the disaster.

Lead singer Jack Russell, who has maintained that his band had permission from the club's owners to use the indoor fireworks, and guitarist Mark Kendall said they are still shocked.

"It's the most horrible experience of my life," Russell said, calling rumors that the band is continuing its tour "a farce."

Great White's second guitarist, Ty Longley, was killed in the fire.

Kendall said that after the fire, he returned to his home.

"I've had a little time to grieve at home," he said, "but I don't feel like I've grieved properly. I've just been home praying with my pastor."

Russell and Kendall did not testify on Wednesday, the first day the grand jury convened, and were unlikely to do so before Friday.

Meanwhile, the attorney for Jeffrey Derderian, one of the owners of the nightclub, said his client has cooperated with the investigation -- despite comments to the contrary from Rhode Island's attorney general.

Derderian and his brother and nightclub co-owner, Michael, said that they did not give permission for Great White to use pyrotechnics during their show.

Jeffrey Pine, Derderian's attorney, said his client has not rejected any specific requests for an interview from Attorney General Patrick Lynch.

"The attorney general has not said come on in," said Pine, himself a former Rhode Island attorney general. "There's been a general open invitation."

Lynch said again Wednesday that both Jeffrey and Michael Derderian have been asked to come in.

"I can only state again that I remain ever hopeful that that occurs," Lynch said. "I believe they can supply answers which can help all of us get to the bottom of this."

The fire started during Great White's first song. The pyrotechnic display ignited sound-proofing behind the stage and quickly burned through the crowded building.

Carcieri has temporarily banned the use of pyrotechnics in clubs in Rhode Island that hold 300 or fewer people. He said 200 deputy fire marshals are inspecting those sites for potential code violations.


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