Club Owners: GREAT WHITE Didn't Advise Us Of Pyrotechnics

The following is a statement released by Kathleen M. Hagerty, a lawyer representing the owners of The Station concert club, the site of Thursday night's tragic fire that killed at least 96 people: "[Thursday] night's fire and loss of life at The Station is an absolute tragedy which cannot be described by words. The owners of the club, Michael and Jeffrey Derderian, are devastated and in shock over these events, which have claimed the lives of so many, including their friends. Their prayers and deep felt sympathy go out to those who lost their lives, their families and to those who were injured.

"Jeffrey Derderian was in the club at the time the fire broke out, and assisted in helping to evacuate the building during the fast-moving fire. Mr. Derderian was interviewed by state and local authorities last night on the scene and provided all information as requested. Michael and Jeffrey Derderian have owned The Station since March 2000.

"At no time, did either owner have prior knowledge that pyrotechnics were going to be used by the band GREAT WHITE. No permission was ever requested by the band or its agents to use pyrotechnics at The Station, and no permission was ever given."

Meanwhile, GREAT WHITE singer Jack Russell and Paul Woolnough, owner of Knight Records, continued to insist yesterday that clubs on the latest GREAT WHITE tour were informed in advance about the sparks that would fly when the band took the stage.

"The tour manager always checks [that pyrotechnics] are able to be used and that the club authorizes it," Woolnough told the Associated Press. "If there's any issue at all, then it's never used."

But other club owners where the band has already played on this tour said they, too, were surprised by the group's use of pyrotechnics during their stage show.

"They didn't ask me and I don't know that they asked anybody in this facility," said Joe Clark, owner of the Crocodile Rock Cafe in Allentown, Pa., where the band played on Feb. 13. In Allentown, club owners need to alert the fire marshal about a pyrotechnics show and the band must have a permit that costs $100. "I was loading ice, loading beer," Clark said. "I have control of this club but it's 38,000 square feet, and this all happened in 20 seconds."

Staffers at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J., turned on the club's exhaust system when they realized that GREAT WHITE were setting off pyrotechnics during their recent show. "We were never notified in advance and nobody mentioned anything on show day, either," said Dominic Santana, who owns the club. "At the end of the night when we were settling up, I said, 'How dare you guys come in here and jeopardize a reputation we built over 29 years. How dare you jeopardize the lives of innocent people here tonight.' "

Stage manager Chris Glowacki, who acts as a liaison between bands and the Stone Pony, and sound man John DeCapua each said they had not been told GREAT WHITE were using pyrotechnics. Santana said club manager Ilene Chapman had not been informed either.

"It could have been the St. Valentine's Day massacre," Santana said.

Woolnough said he did not have specific knowledge of the Stone Pony show.

"That I would refute, for the simple purpose that I know that the tour manager always checks that (pyrotechnics are) able to be used, and that the club authorizes it," Woolnough said, referring to GREAT WHITE tour manager Dan Biechele. "If there's any issue at all, then it's never used."

For the Jaxx show in West Springfield, Virginia, originally slated for Friday night (Feb. 21), owner Jay Nedry said there had been no pre-show discussions with the band about pyrotechnics. If the band had asked, Nedry says he would have flatly refused. Local fire marshals wouldn't allow it, and having seen enough fire-related mishaps in his own career as a musician, he knows better than to even ask.

"I've seen guys catch their hair on fire, their pants, carpets," he said. "You'll never forget the smell of that."

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