On February 20, 2003, a nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island called The Station burned down. Amid the smoke, heat, and panicked, stampeding crowds, 100 people were killed, and 230 more injured. The cause of the fire was a pyrotechnics display from the headlining band, Great White, which ignited the egg-crate acoustic foam surrounding the stage and set the room ablaze. Among the victims of the fire—the fourth-deadliest nightclub fire in American history—were Great White guitarist Ty Longley and emcee Mike Gonsalves. An investigation, criminal trials against the band’s manager and owners of the club, and several civil settlements followed.
In other words, the whole thing was very sad, and probably preventable. And Great White singer Jack Russell feels terrible about it, recently telling a Portland radio station that he still carries guilt about the fire, which, according to Yahoo! News, he calls “rock ‘n’ roll’s version of 9/11.” (Russell was not charged in the incident.) “Why did I get to live and so many other people didn’t? I feel guilty for people coming to see me play and losing their lives. It’s really hard to deal with it,” Russell said.
Now, ostensibly as a way of saying he’s sorry, Russell is planning to make a documentary about the fire that will tell his side of the story. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some survivors of the fire and relatives of the victims regard Russell’s plans with suspicion. Jody King, whose brother was killed in the fire, says that “if [Russell] wants to help, stay away, shut your mouth,” and Gina Russo, who was severely injured in the fire, says she refused a request to participate in the documentary. “I wish he could just understand that he’s hurt enough people. Leave it be, leave it be,” she says.
A memorial for those killed in the fire is in the works and is expected to open next year.