When it was announced that the 1980s rock act Great White would be headlining an evening of retro rock music at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, their small but loyal following turned out in force. The warm-up acts went down well and, by the time Great White took the stage, shortly after 23.00, spirits were high. The band started with their traditional opening song ‘Desert Moon’, accompanied by a pyrotechnic display laid on by the group’s manager.
The band had scarcely got going when the fireworks sent a spray of sparks up into the sound-proofing foam above the stage. The foam quickly ignited, surrounding the band with flames. Most of the audience thought this was all part of the act and just carried on enjoying the show. The fire quickly engulfed the whole ceiling, sending billows of black smoke across the arena, at which point the lead singer shouted ‘this ain’t good’ and the band headed for an exit behind the stage. Soon all anyone could hear was the penetrating squeal of the club’s fire alarm system. Despite the fact that the club had four functioning exits, in their haste to get out most of the audience chose to leave through the narrow hallway through which they had arrived. The passage soon filled up and became impassable, leading those in the club to push even harder as the fire sucked the oxygen from the room. One hundred lost their lives in the stampede, either through being trampled or as a result of smoke inhalation and severe burns. Only around one quarter of the 470 present escaped unharmed.
The fire had a huge impact on the local community. Scores of children lost their parents, the band lost their lead guitarist, Ty Longley, and lawsuits totaling $180 million were initiated.
When was the The Station Nightclub Fire: February 20 2003
Where was the The Station Nightclub Fire: West Warwick, Rhode Island, USA
What was the The Station Nightclub Fire death toll: 100
You should know: The fire was caught on film by cameraman Brian Butler, who was on the scene to do a piece for a local television station about safety in nightclubs. Two main lessons can be learnt from this and numerous other similar tragedies: indoor pyrotechnics are a bad idea and you should always check out the fire escapes when attending a crowded venue.