HOLDING UP: Williams, who was severely injured in the fire, is faring pretty well.
A benefit for those in need
For Kane and like-minded critics, there remain a number of contentious issues: how Francis J. Darigan Jr., the judge overseeing the criminal charges rising from the case, pre-empted a trial; how Denis Larocque, the former West Warwick fire marshal who had inspected the Station — and who repeatedly increased the club’s capacity, and who overlooked the cheap foam soundproofing padding the club — was never charged in connection with the tragedy. They also question how prison time was handed out to only one, Michael Derderian, of the two brothers who owned the Station.
With the passage of time, some of those who were involved in the situation and its aftermath have changed positions or started to speak publicly about their role.
Larocque, for example, who has not publicly commented on the fire, retired from the department earlier this month on an occupational disability. (The standard for suing a public official in Rhode Island — intentional maliciousness — has previously been cited as an explanation for why he was not charged.)
On Sunday, the Providence Journal reported that Judge Darigan, during a symposium last week, defended his decision to resolve the criminal charges against the Derder¬ian brothers without a trial, stating that the victims and their families were not qualified to determine the appropriate outcome. The families of the victims, Darigan said, “were looking past the charge — what the defendants pled to — and looked at the sentence only in the light of their terrible loss, when there would have been no sentence that this court could have imposed that would have in any way reflected the worth or value of the loss of their loved one.”
Elsewhere, the process moves forward in US District Court in Providence, where the parent companies of WPRI-TV (Channel 12) and of WHJY, two of the almost 100 plaintiffs being sued, have made respective settlement offers of $30 million and of $22 million. The offers have yet to be approved by US District Court senior judge Ronald Lagueux. While a lot of money is on the table, it’s not yet known how well such offers will meet the needs of the Station survivors and their dependents.
In the interim, Phoenix Rising, an effort to lend emotional and financial support to those most affected by the disaster, will take place next Monday evening, February 25, at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
A group of rock and country musicians, including Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, Tesla, Kelly Pickler, Gretchen Wilson, Tom Scholz, Aaron Lewis of Staind, John Rich of Big & Rich, Kevin Max, Facing Forward, and others, are staging the benefit for the Station Family Fund (stationfamilyfund.org), and it will be broadcast on VH1 Classic in April. (For more details, see listings for details. Another benefit show, on Sunday, February 24, at J.R.’s Mardi Gras in Cranston, will feature Snider, local cover bands, and the Trip, which hasn’t played since the Station fire.)
Snider, the co-host of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center event, says he has wanted to do something to help benefit the victims since reading a Rolling Stone story on the one-year anniversary of the Station fire. In particular, he was troubled by the sense that the community of survivors felt forgotten by the Bush administration and by the music industry.
Snider theorizes that some have found it easier to forget the Station victims since they are generally blue-collar hard-rock fans. “That’s a horrible way to look at it,” he says. “One message we’re trying to get out is that this is not a metal fan problem, it’s not a blue-collar problem — it’s a people problem.”
Having played in countless firetraps over the years, Snider says he takes the issue personally. “I think people need to be reminded: this could happen to anyone, at any place, at any time, unless we are vigilant,” he says during a recent telephone interview. And to feel forgotten after such a tragedy, he adds, “That struck me as the worst way in the world to feel.”