JOHN: No doubt. I'm sure there were people that did not want to leave without others or couldn't immediately locate others. I mention in the book a very haunting picture that was taken inside the club — that of Jeff Rader, a roadie with Tesla [who was visiting his girlfriend in Rhode Island]. He's about 18 feet from the band exit when that picture's taken and we've backed into it timewise — both on [Great White fan] Matthew Pickett's audio tape and [on videotape from WPRI-TV cameraman] Brian Butler [who was at The Station shooting footage for a story on club safety] — to determine whether Jeffrey had an opportunity, after that picture was snapped, to escape. And he did.
As you look at the picture, you can't really tell what is keeping him there, whether he's looking for his girlfriend, Becky Shaw, whether he's looking at the crowd backed up at the front door, determining that there's no way I can get through that or whether he simply doesn't appreciate the peril of the smoke layer coming down almost to his head at that point.
One thing I came to learn in researching the book that I didn't know before is how immediately the knockdown affect can occur, if you get one or two lungfuls of the wrong kind of smoke. And this was the wrong kind of smoke. This was hydrocarbon-based. It had toxins in it — namely cyanide — such that one or two lungfuls and the perception, as described to me, is of passing out. Just absolute knockdown.
DID YOU EXPERIENCE ANYTHING LIKE THAT, GINA?
GINA: Oh, it was quick. I mean, I could feel it. And I know Fred went very quickly. He was a big guy, he was out of shape, so that took him quickly. And I felt it in my own self. And I was very healthy, very athletic. I was running six miles a day. I was at the gym every day. But my lungs — it was truly like someone was stabbing me, indescribable pain, and every breath I tried to take, it was just worse and worse, and shorter and shorter.
My friend, [one of] two girls that were selling the merchandise, remembers packing up the boxes, thinking that the sprinklers were going to go off, thinking, "Oh we don't want the sprinklers to ruin any CDs." And then she said, all of a sudden just realizing, wait a minute, the sprinklers aren't going off. And just said to her friend, "We've got to get out of here."
They tried smashing windows, or breaking in windows, and it didn't work. Finally someone heard them from the outside, kicking at the windows and that's how they got out — not without being significantly burned. She got out. But she wasn't going without her friend. She made sure she went right along with her. They were both getting out that window. And they did.
JOHN, YOU WROTE IN YOUR BOOK THAT, IRONICALLY, THE FIRST PRACTICAL SPRINKLER HEAD WAS DEVELOPED UP THE ROAD IN PROVIDENCE IN 1881. THERE WAS NO SPRINKLER SYSTEM AT THE CLUB. WHY NOT?