Thursday, January 17, 2008

RI Makes National News (as usual, not for a good reason)

In as small a state that RI is, I am very lucky to not have known anyone who was killed in the Station Nightclub Fire in 2003 - it's amazing to me, really. I did hear how horrific it was from my (then) neighbor, Peter Henrikson who is a member of the EG Fire Dept., who told me in graphic detail what he found upon his arrival at the fire scene that night. I will never forget his first comment to me which was, "Alice, think of the worst possible thing you can possibly imagine and multiply it by one thousand and you still won't know how bad it was." I have a feeling that Peter and the other responders from that night still have nightmares.

Many people that I know did lose family members, neighbors and friends. This tragedy was bad enough, but the tragedy was made far worse by the irresponsible actions of the club owners, Great White, RI's Attorney General, the RI Fire Marshal's office, the Town of West Warwick's fire and building inspectors, the American Foam Corp., etc.. None of these people were charged and/or held responsible for their negligence!

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The co-owner of a nightclub who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for a fire that killed 100 people can leave prison early, but not until next year, the state parole board decided Wednesday.

Michael Derderian, 46, still must serve more than three years of his four-year sentence before being paroled in October 2009. I'd like to know how the parole board knows that this jerk will behave over the next 22 months!! Are they psychic? He's already shown that he thinks the rules in prison are for all except for him!

He pleaded no contest in September 2006 to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Feb. 20, 2003, blaze at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, which was sparked by pyrotechnics during a Great White concert. More than 200 others were injured in the fire.

Parole board Chairwoman Lisa Holley said in a written statement that the board decided to release Michael Derderian next year, rather than having to conduct another parole hearing, because of the "enormity of the loss and trauma suffered by many." All but one member voted to grant parole.

Derderian appeared before the parole board Wednesday, a week after victims' relatives asked the board to force him to serve his entire sentence, saying he ran a dangerous business and failed to show enough remorse for his role in the disaster.

Diane Mattera, whose 29-year-old daughter, Tammy Mattera-Housa, was killed, said that she was happy Derderian would stay in prison longer and that she won't have to go through the wrenching process of another parole hearing.

"I do not have to go in front of the parole board in a few more months to plead my heart out" to keep Derderian behind bars, she said.

But Chris Fontaine, whose son, Mark, 22, died, said she was disappointed because she feels the victims' families pleas have repeatedly fallen on "deaf ears."

"It wouldn't have bothered me to go to another hearing and plead my case again," she said.

Derderian's lawyer, Kathleen Hagerty, did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

Derderian has been disciplined several times for breaking the rules at his work-release job and in prison. He lost his work-release job and was transferred from the prison's minimum security facility to medium security.

Derderian's brother and the club's other co-owner, Jeffrey Derderian, also pleaded no contest to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter but was spared jail time under a plea deal and ordered to do 500 hours of community service. Attorney General Patrick Lynch should hang his head in shame for allowing Jeff Derderian to get off so easily. These brothers were so greedy and cheap they didn't even have the necessary workers' compensation insurance for their employees.

The only other man jailed for the fire, former Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele, is scheduled to be released on parole in March. Biechele was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to lighting the pyrotechnics without a required permit. At least this guy showed remorse, accepted responsibility and, in addition, hand wrote letters to each of the 100 families stating how sorry he was for the tragic results of his actions.

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