The owners of The Station nightclub in Rhode Island – where 100 people died in an inferno caused by a rock band’s pyrotechnics back in 2003 – are finally telling their side of the story for the first time after nearly 20 years of silence.
Jeffrey and Michael Derderian claim that ‘sound foam’ installed in the West Warwick club was actually ‘cheap packing foam’ that helped the deadly fire spread, burning the building to the ground in just three minutes, the brothers said in their first public interview on the incident with 48 Hours.
‘We wanted the full story to come out, not just some of it, and that for people who want to, come to their own conclusion on what happened that night,’ Jeffrey Derderian told 48 Hours‘ Jim Axelrod, a three-minute snippet of which was released on Thursday.
‘We understand the enormity of what happened. People suffered enormously,’ Jeffrey told the Boston Globe in a separate interview prior to the premiere of their upcoming 48 Hours segment.
‘We don’t want sympathy, but it never leaves us.’
Jeffrey Derderian, pictured, was sentenced to three years of probation and 500 hours of community service
Pictured: Michael (C) and Jeffrey Derderian (R) listen to victim impact statements with attorney Richard Egbert in 2006 during their sentencing trial in Warwick, Rhode Island
The scene inside The Station nightclub on February 20, 2003 when soundproofing foam ignited due to pyrotechnics, killing 100 and injuring 200 more
On February 20, 2003, the nightclub was packed for a Great White concert when a pyrotechnical mishap caused a massive fire as trapped patrons scrambled to exit the fully-engulfed venue.
One of the fireworks ignited soundproofing foam on the club’s walls and ceiling, which then burst into flames before filling the nightclub with toxic smoke as the venue continued to burn.
The brothers insist that they ordered ‘sound foam’ from American Foam Corporation, and didn’t want cheap material foam on the walls, which were installed three years before the deadly blaze.
Along with the 100 dead, there were more than 200.
After the fire, the company representative who serviced the venue sent an anonymous fax to the attorney general’s office and the press which revealed that the company was not honest with their customers about the dangers of the foam.
The two brothers have posted copies of that document on Facebook, while adding that prosecutors had withheld it from the grand jury at the time of their sentencing.
The Derderian brothers broke their silence after the recent release of ‘Trial By Fire,’ a book about the tragic incident by investigative reporter Scott James.
Rock band Great White (pictured) was the group performing the night the pyrotechnics ignited the Rhode Island nightclubs soundproofing foam in 2003
The brothers insist they ordered ‘sound foam’ from American Foam Corporation, pictured, and didn’t want cheap material foam on the walls, which was installed three years before the fire
Firefighters carry out a body bag from the nightclub The Station in West Warwick, RI after a multiple fatality fire the previous night on Feb. 21, 2003
The two brothers have posted copies of that document on Facebook, pictured, while adding that prosecutors had withheld it from the grand jury at the time of their sentencing
James told WBZ-TV there were still so many questions about that night that remain due to the fact there was no trial following the fire.
The brothers instead opted to for a plea deal and were sentenced for 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter in 2006.
Michael was sentenced to four years in a minimum security prison, while his brother Jeffrey was sentenced to three years of probation and 500 hours of community service. Civil lawsuits from 65 defendants were settled out of court for a total of $176 million, according to the Globe.
Daniel Biechele, the tour manager who lit the pyrotechnics, served 16-months of a four-year sentence.
James said that even the legal capacity of the venue, which was believed to have been exceeded the night of the fatal fire, is still a mystery to this day.
‘It was believed the legal capacity of the nightclub was 300 people, and that was reported for weeks,’ James said.
‘But it wasn’t 300. It was more than 400 and there is a question about whether or not they really exceeded the legal capacity.’
The brothers insist the club was not over capacity on the night of the blaze, and remain adamant that they never allowed the band to use pyrotechnics in the first.
James added that although the two brothers remained silent for so many years, Jeffrey in particular has always wanted to talk about the fire, according to CBS Boston.
The Station nightclub owner and defendant Michael Derderian breaks down while listening to sentencing as attorney Richard Egbert (back) looks on, September 29, 2006
Pictured: the rubble and remains following the deadly 2003 nightclub fire
Station nightclub fire scene, pictured, which burned to the ground in about three minutes. The fire was started by pyrotechnics going off on the stage while the band Great White performed
‘He said to me repeatedly that he always wanted to talk because he always felt that the people who didn’t talk, when he was a reporter he always concluded, well they must be hiding something, they must be guilty,’ James said.
‘So he wanted to talk.’
The story of the Derderians took an emotional turn during sentencing over 15 years ago, when James said the brothers were forced to determine which of the two would take the prison sentence.
‘The twist of the story that had not been reported was that they allowed one of them to stay free, and one of them could go to prison,’ James said.
‘And the way the deal worked, the state said they could decide amongst themselves, which of the two brothers would be the one to serve. And so there’s a scene in the book where we see them in a Dunkin’ Donuts where they’re having this discussion about who’s going to be the one better suited for prison. And they decide that Michael is.’
Derderians said they are not looking for sympathy after breaking the nearly two decades of silence.
‘It’s not a redemption tour. It’s about the truth,’ Michael said. ‘
‘It’s the right thing to do, and it needs to be done … to make sure the people who are entitled to hear the truth get the truth.’
The full-length interview with 48 Hours will premiere Saturday on CBS and Paramount+, according to CBS News.