Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Nightclub fire foundation spurns singer, benefit concert

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A foundation working to build a permanent memorial at the site of a deadly 2003 nightclub fire caused by a band's pyrotechnics has asked the lead singer to take the foundation's name off a benefit concert.

The fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick was started when pyrotechnics for the heavy metal band Great White ignited flammable foam that lined the club's walls and ceiling. It killed 100 people and injured more than twice that many. The 10th anniversary is Feb. 20.

The band's lead singer at the time, Jack Russell, announced on Tuesday that he would play a Feb. 7 benefit for the Station Fire Memorial Foundation in a club in Hermosa Beach, Calif., near Los Angeles. Members of the foundation learned of the show Wednesday, Victoria Eagan, the foundation's vice-president, told The Associated Press on Friday. Members of the group did not wish to be associated with the event and immediately began working to get Russell to drop his use of its name.

"This is due to the resentment and animosity still felt by many of the families and survivors that our very organization represents," the foundation wrote in a statement. "We feel that the upset caused by his involvement would outweigh the amount of funds raised at this event."

In a statement to the AP Friday, Russell said he would honour the request and donate the money from his show to a different charity that he would determine soon.

"I am utterly saddened by the response of the foundation and the motives behind it," he wrote.

Great White held benefit concerts after the fire, Eagan said, and raised about $185,000 for the Station Family Fund, a charity that helped people who were severely burned, children who had lost parents and others. She said that at that time, there was backlash from some families, but board members decided people so desperately needed the money it didn't matter where it came from.

That fund agreed to allow the band to raise money in its name, and agreed ahead of time that band members would not be making money off the performances, she said. Their association ended in 2005.

Since then, band members agreed to pay $1 million to settle lawsuits brought by families of those killed, although they did not admit wrongdoing. The band's tour manager, Daniel Biechele, who lit the pyrotechnics, pleaded guilty to 100 counts of manslaughter. The brothers who owned the club pleaded no contest.

Russell and Great White have split and are arguing over who has rights to the name of the band.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 19, 2013 G7

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