A Providence cameraman assigned to cover a story on nightclub safety
ended up shooting video of Rhode Island's most devastating fire ever late
The nightclub, called The Station, was partly owned by a station colleague.
By late Friday morning, the death toll had hit 86, with more than 150 others
injured in a fire authorities said began with a pyrotechnic display from 1980s rock
band Great White, who were performing at the club.
The Station has been owned by television reporter Jeff Derderian and his
brother, Michael, since March, 2000.
Jeff Derderian, who was in the club during the performance and the fire, had
just returned to Providence from Boston's WHDH-TV this month.
Police told local media charges of safety violations were likely against the
Among those missing Friday were one of the band members and Clear Channel Communications Inc.
radio personality "The Doctor," from WHJY-FM, who was emceeing the event,
station sources said.
Through an attorney, the club owners expressed their shock and sympathy for
the tragedy and denied that either owner knew or had given permission regarding
the use of pyrotechnics at the club.
Derderian assisted in evacuating the building, the statement said, and he has
been cooperating with authorities investigating the tragedy.
WPRI-TV photographer Brian Butler, who shot dramatic footage from inside The
Station, described his experience Friday morning in an interview with
his station and circulated to hundreds more by CNN NewSource.
"As soon as the pyrotechnics stopped, the flame had started on the egg-crate
[foam] backing behind the stage, and it just went up the ceiling and people stood
and watched it," Butler said. "Some people were already trying to leave and
others were just sitting there going 'Yeah that's great!' and I remember that
statement because I was like, 'This is not great, this is time to leave.'"
In an interview carried over CBS News' Early Show, Butler said the mass
exodus started out in a fairly calm manner, but then panic set in.
Butler described a bottleneck at one of the exit doors, adding that several
people, himself included, "popped out" from the human pressure.
Many of the dead, in fact, were found near the exits, according to reports.
Butler's story on fire safety was prompted by a recent Chicago incident in
which 21 people were killed and more than 50 injured in a stampede that started
with a security guard using pepper spray to break up a fight.
WJAR(TV) said sports reporter Scott Fleishman and Bob Farrell were in the
area and responded quickly.