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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Nightclub Fire Kills at Least 26 People

Aired February 21, 2003 - 06:33   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Something else we're keeping people up to date on this morning, a breaking news story out of West Warwick, Rhode Island. We have some new pictures to show you, aerial shots of the scene there. You can see how intense that fire was, burned cars right outside of the nightclub, not much is left.
Now, this nightclub was called The Station. And inside, a band called Great White, the '80s heavy metal band, was playing inside, and they had a big pyrotechnics show behind them. And that pyrotechnics show caught the stage curtains on fire and the ceiling. The fire spread so quickly. It spread in three minutes. The club was totally engulfed in flame in that short amount of time.

There were more than 300 people inside the nightclub watching the band. There was a major stampede towards the door. Some people were trampled and killed; others died in the fire.

In all, authorities tell us 26 people are dead, more than 164 have been taken to area hospitals. In fact some have been taken as far away as Boston to receive care, because there just weren't enough expert doctors in the Providence area to take care of them all.

Do we have some sound bytes from witnesses on the scene?

We do, OK. Can we get to those sound bytes right now from eyewitnesses?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My sister and I got right out. And as I'm helping people and hearing stories, I think there was a trampling, you know, a panic, screaming, trampling. That's how I've been sort of hearing it from some of the injured. And there are some people here that are really badly hurt -- burns, the blood. And from what I gather in just passing with some people that I think maybe some people have expired.

BRIAN BUTLER, WPRI PHOTOGRAPHER: I noticed when the pyro stopped, the flame had kept going on both sides. And then on one side, I noticed it come over the top, and that's when I said, 'I have to leave.' And I turned around, I said, 'Get out, get out, get to the door, get to the door!' And people just stood there.

There was a table in the way at the door, and I pulled that out just to get it out of the way so people could get out easier. And I never expected it take off as fast as it did. It just -- it was so fast. It had to be two minutes tops before the whole place was black smoke.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: And you just heard from a local photographer. He was actually doing a feature story from inside the bar.

You saw the pyrotechnics display behind the band onstage. It was sort of like, you know, when your kids use sparklers on the Fourth of July? Same sort of thing. Sparks suddenly fly out from the top of those torches behind the band. The sparks from those pyrotechnics caught the curtain on fire behind the band and some foam insulation that they used and also the ceiling.

Many people in trying to escape the flames died near the front door. They just could not get out.

Again, 26 people dead. At least 164 in the hospital.

I want to let you hear from the father of one of the injured right now, Joe DiBona, Sr.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

We got a call, and he and his friend went to the place. His friend went to Lady of Fatima, and they couldn't find my son, Joe. And we panicked. Finally went to Kent County Hospital. They said, finally after a half-hour, an hour or so, we found out he was there. Then they transported him to here, intensive care unit, the trauma unit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And his name?

DIBONA: And he's here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, his name?

DIBONA: Joe. Joe DiBona.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spell that for me?

DIBONA: Capital D-I, capital B-O-N-A.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And your name, sir?

DIBONA: Joe, also.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Also Joe?

DIBONA: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is his last name? What's the last name?

DIBONA: DiBona. Capital D-I, capital B-O-N-A.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us again, when you were in the hospital, how... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe, Jr.?

DIBONA: Jr.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... what did officials in there tell you? What were they doing?

DIBONA: Well, they were very helpful. Very helpful. And of course, it was turmoil in there, and they were very helpful. That's all I can say, you know. And he's in the trauma unit, intensive care. He's heavily sedated. He's on a breathing apparatus. He's burnt pretty bad. It's devastating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to see him?

DIBONA: Yes, it's terrible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: A lot of parents and friends have loved ones in the hospital in that very same condition.

You're looking at a Web site, or you will shortly. This is the Web site -- the band's Web site that was playing that night. And of course, they went on stage at 11:00 Eastern last night, and this fire broke out during their very first song. The band is called Great White. You may remember the band from the '80s, a heavy metal band. They were popular for the song "Once Bitten, Twice Shy."

The guitarist, the guy you see in the middle, is missing. His name is Mark Kendall. Don't know if he died in the fire or is in the hospital at this time.

Also a popular deejay -- there you're seeing a picture of him right now, Mark Kendall, the guitarist. A deejay, a popular deejay in the Rhode Island area who introduced the band also missing at this time.

And as I said, firefighters are still on the scene trying to pull more bodies out of that nightclub right now. Of course, the nightclub, there's not much left of it right now.

Something else that investigators will be talking about in the days to come is whether that pyrotechnics display should have been in that club at all, because it wasn't a very big place. And as you can see, those torches were huge.

Jack Russell, the lead singer of Great White, told a local television station, he said he asked the club's manager before the show if he could use those pyrotechnics, and the manager said yes. But of course, as I said, investigators will be looking into that.

Let's take another look at those aerial pictures that we've gotten from the scene. As you can see, that thing in the middle was the club. Completely burned down.

This was a very fast-moving fire. In three minutes, the whole place totally engulfed in flames.

Twenty-six people believed dead. Firefighters still looking for more.

We'll have much more on this to come.

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