GREAT WHITE Nightclub Fire: The Camera Operator's Testimony

Paul Edward Parker of The Providence Journal reports:

Feb. 20, 2003, was a busy day for Brian Butler, a camera operator at Channel 12.

He raced around to a handful of stories: A chess club event. The opening of a play. A man whose prayers for his son’s health had been answered. A pedestrian hit by a car. A brothel that had been raided.

By the time he arrived at his final assignment of the day, he was tired. And it showed in his work, he said. He wasn’t being creative. He wasn’t getting the good shots.

Shortly after 11 p.m., he peered through the one-inch-by-one-inch viewfinder of his camera. Rock band GREAT WHITE took the stage, underscoring its entrance with fireworks, three fountains of sparks that shot up from the stage. Through the sparks, Butler noticed a black-and-white trickle of flame climbing the wall of The Station nightclub.

The world has become familiar with the video [watch video at this location] Butler shot of the fire starting and people fleeing for their lives. But Butler has never spoken publicly about that night. Last week, the attorney general disclosed — among thousands of pages of documents — a statement Butler gave to the police and testimony he gave to a grand jury investigating the fire. In many ways, his statement and testimony are more vivid than the video itself.



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