Tour boss admits causing 100 deaths in nightclub fire

The former tour manager for heavy metal rock group Great White has pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter for setting off pyrotechnics that caused one of the deadliest nightclub fires in US history.

Daniel Biechele, 29, will serve no more than 10 years in prison under the plea deal, which comes two weeks before the three-year anniversary of the fire at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island. He will be sentenced on May 8.

Biechele stood with his hands clasped and answered “Yes, your honour,” in a soft voice as a judge asked if he understood the proceedings.

Dozens of relatives packed the courtroom in Providence to witness the plea - the first time anyone has taken responsibility for the fire. One mother held up a small photograph of her dead daughter throughout the hearing. Other women held tissues or dabbed at their eyes.

The fire on February 20 2003 at the West Warwick nightclub killed 100 people and injured more than 200 others. Sparks from Biechele’s pyrotechnics display ignited flammable soundproofing foam inside the nightclub, fuelling a fast-moving fire that quickly enveloped the one-story wooden building and tapped concertgoers.

Biechele and brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, who owned the nightclub, were each indicted in December 2003 on 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter - two for every person who died. Each count carries a maximum of 30 years in prison. No one else has been charged.

The Derderians, accused of installing the foam, have pleaded not guilty.

Biechele pleaded guilty to 100 counts that accused him of lighting the pyrotechnics without the required permit, resulting in the deaths. An additional 100 counts are being dismissed, sparing Biechele what could have been many more years behind bars.

More in this Section

Ryanair strikes called off by British pilots’ unionRyanair strikes called off by British pilots’ union

Trump: I said nothing wrong to foreign leaderTrump: I said nothing wrong to foreign leader

Premier League footballer blackmail trial: Messages between defendants revealedPremier League footballer blackmail trial: Messages between defendants revealed

US experts bid to find out why vaping may cause oil-filled lungsUS experts bid to find out why vaping may cause oil-filled lungs


Venetia Quick, co-founder of ‘Grief Encounters’ tells Ruth O’Connor that there is no right or wrong way to grieve the death of a loved one.Grief Encounters: Podcast opening up conversation about bereavement

Once again for this week’s review I was reminded about the quality of Irish meat — and yet it seems the meat processors expect our farmers to produce it at a loss.Restaurant Review: Mister S, Camden St Upper, Dublin 2

Your guide to what's going on in the gardening world this week.Gardening notes: Your guide to what's on

I went to Holy Faith in Clontarf in Dublin and I still have a big group of friends from school. These days, like most people, we use a WhatsApp group to communicate!School Daze with Nadia Forde: I wish I had embraced my differences at school

More From The Irish Examiner