Great White offers $1M to settle fatal fire suits

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - September 2, 2008 - The settlement offer from Great White is the latest stemming from the February 2003 fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick. Roughly $175 million has now been offered by dozens of defendants to settle lawsuits over the blaze, which also injured more than 200 people and is the fourth-deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history.

The band does not admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which requires the approval of the more than 300 people suing as well as the federal judge handling the case. Attorneys for the band did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The blaze began when the band's tour manager, Daniel Biechele, shot off streams of pyrotechnics at the start of the concert. Sparks from the pyrotechnics ignited inexpensive packaging foam the club owners had used as soundproofing around the stage. Great White guitarist Ty Longley was among those killed.

The plaintiffs split the blame dozens of ways, from the companies that made and sold the foam, to the club owners who installed it, to the inspectors who failed to identify it as a hazard. Nearly all defendants, including the state, the town of West Warwick, Anheuser-Busch, Clear Channel Broadcasting and The Home Depot, have agreed to settle rather than head to trial.

The band members were never charged, but Biechele pleaded guilty in 2006 to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter and was paroled in March after serving less than half his four-year prison sentence.

No settlement money has been distributed so far. A Duke University law professor has been appointed to work out a formula to determine how much money each person should receive.

Club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, who installed the foam, pleaded no contest to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter in 2006. Michael Derderian will be out on parole next year. His brother was spared jail time and given community service and probation.

The Derderians have been sued but have received bankruptcy protection.

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