Rhode Island Town Considers Nightclub Fire Memorial

Authorities in the town where a nightclub fire killed 99 people are asking the victims' survivors to decide if the site should be turned into a memorial, according to the Associated Press.

West Warwick officials want to convert the site to honor those who died and the nearly 200 people who were injured Feb. 20 at The Station nightclub. Mark Tourgee, one of the lawyers representing West Warwick, said the site's current owner, Triton Realty, agreed to donate the property.

Tourgee sent a letter written April 3 to lawyers representing the victims' survivors. He wants the attorneys to ask their clients if they want the town to take ownership of the land and begin a memorial through a nonprofit group. He warned that transferring the property to the town would wipe out a potential asset in civil lawsuits.

The location is probably worth several hundred thousand dollars, Tourgee said, and could be turned into a fast-food restaurant or be sold for residential use.

"It does have potential value to any of the victims or their families as a potentially recoverable asset in any litigation down the road," Tourgee said.

Lawyers contacted Monday said they received the letter last week but have not yet talked to their clients about it.

"I can't imagine that they would object" to a memorial, said Brian Cunha, who represents 19 clients.

Mark Decof, who with two other attorneys represents more than 30 victims' families and survivors, said, "I would expect they would react in a positive way. There are other fish to fry."

Only two lawsuits have been filed on behalf of three victims' families, but other lawsuits are expected. The town of West Warwick is named in one of the lawsuits, but Triton Realty has not yet been named as a defendant.

After the fire, mourners paid tribute to the victims by leaving flowers, teddy bears, pictures and other mementoes at the site. Those items have been removed and are being stored by the town until an agreement regarding a memorial is settled.

Currently, the site is being combed for evidence by experts hired by lawyers who represent potential plaintiffs and defendants in expected civil suits. On Monday, a judge approved a West Warwick warehouse for the storage of all evidence recovered from the site.

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