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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Pyrotechnic Show Ignites Stage, Spreads Through Club

Aired February 21, 2003 - 05:40   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BRIAN BUTLER, VICTIM: I couldn't guess, but maybe 150, 200, whatever, I'm not sure.
WALT BUTEAU, WPRI-TV REPORTER: Inside that bar, 150 people, plus the band and the crew. And at that point getting out, how did you get out and were people literally trampled as they got out?

BUTLER: At first there was no panic, everybody just kind of turned. Most people still just stood there. In the other rooms, the smoke hadn't gotten to them, the flame wasn't that bad, they didn't think anything of it.

Well I guess once we all started to turn toward the door and we got bottlenecked into the front door, people just kept pushing and eventually everyone popped out of the door, including myself, that's when I turned back. I went around back, there was no one coming out the back door anymore. I kicked out a side window to try to get people out of there. One guy did crawl out. I went back around the front again and that's when you saw people stacked on top of each other trying to get out of the front door. And by then the black smoke was pouring out over their heads, out the side windows on the other side.

BUTEAU: Really an amazing thing to live through, not just for Brian Butler, but also for anyone who did survive. Obviously some people did not survive. And again, a sad part of the morning for many families is they may not know where their loved ones are. I know we have some phone numbers where they can call and see if indeed their loved one was here last night or is among the casualties. And that's going to be a big part of the morning is determining how many and who.

Live in West Warwick, Walt Buteau, Eyewitness News.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Fine, Walt Buteau has, of course, been on scene since about 11:20 this evening.

Here are some numbers for concerned friends, neighbors, family members. If you had a friend go out last night, they were going to go out to a club and you don't know where they are this morning, these are some numbers you can call. 401-823-3326, that's in West Warwick. It's a West Warwick Information Line. The Rhode Island Hospital Victim Family Hotline is at 401-444-4005. And the State Emergency Management Agency, which is starting to try to coordinate all of this information, might be your first best bet to call, 401-462-7111.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: May I add to the list that some 50 victims or so are at Kent Hospital in Warwick and they have a number as well that's been set up. That's 737-7000 and then you want to punch in extension 1397. Also, there's a family center that's been open in the lobby of the (Habsburg) Children's Hospital, you can go there to get some support and some help if you're looking to find someone or to get some information that's vital.

We want to take you to a map of the scene right now so you know exactly where all of this has unfolded overnight, a very familiar place for many Rhode Islanders, Cowesett Avenue. It's where the Cowesett Inn Restaurant is, Ellen's Restaurant and The Station. Right across from the Cowesett Inn just -- and a little bit cattycorner to it is called The Station, and aptly named because it is co-owned by one of our colleagues, Jeff Derderian and his family, and who happened to be there at this nightclub that very moment that the fire erupted.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: OK, we're going to dip away from our affiliate WPRI in Providence, Rhode Island now, update you about that nightclub fire, once again, in West Warwick, Rhode Island. We understand that the latest number 24 dead in that nightclub fire, more than 165 injured and scattered in area hospitals in Rhode Island and in the Boston area.

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