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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Rhode Island Club Fire Tragedy Revisited with Members of Rock Band Great White
Aired February 9, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, exclusive. It was supposed to be a fun night out at a rock club, but it turned into an inferno killing 100 people. Now, for the first time on TV, members of the band Great White, who lost one of their own members that awful night meet badly burned and blinded survivors of that deadly disaster. An intense, emotion exclusive hour is next on LARRY KING LIVE.
(on camera): On February 20, 2003, the band Great White took the stage at the Station Nightclub West Warwick, Rhode Island, shortly after 11:00 p.m. Pyrotechnics set off at the start of the song Desert Moon ignited foam around the stage. Patrons rushed to get out. Within minutes flamed engulfed the building. 96 bodies were pulled from the burned wreckage in the day that followed, including that of Great White guitarist Ty Longley. Four more hospitalized victims eventually succumbed to their injuries.
Some 200 other people suffered burns and other injuries as well as psychological trauma. More than 60 children, more than 60 children lost one or both parents in the blaze.
A Rhode Island grand jury has indicted Great White's former tour manager and the co-owners of the nightclub on multiple counts of involuntary manslaughter, misdemeanor manslaughter and criminal negligence. Criminal proceedings expected in about a year. The defendants have pled not guilty. Multiple civil lawsuits are pending in federal court on behalf of the survivors of the fire and the victims' families.
In the aftermath, by the way, Rhode Island and several other states have enacted legislation mandating more stringent fire safety regulations.
We begin tonight with 2 members of the group Great White and their attorney. There Jack Russell, one of the original members of the band. Great White, by the way, was a Grammy nominated rock band formed in the early 1980s.
Mark Kendall is also with us, another original member of the band. That band is out again playing. We'll talk about that.
And Ed McPherson is the lead attorney for Great White.
Explain to me, Jack, why the use of pyrotechnics? Why do you need fire in the act? JACK RUSSELL, GREAT WHITE MEMBER: We never really were a pyrotechnic band to be honest with you, Larry. And this was the first year that we've ever used pyrotechnics.
RUSSELL: Yes. First time I used it. It was actually an idea of my past managers to do that. And I would never use it again, obviously. But we never thought it was going to be problem.
KING: Had you used it prior to that night?
RUSSELL: Yes. We had -- just at the beginning of that tour. I think the tour was probably, maybe, 2 weeks into it or 3 weeks into the tour. So it wasn't -- we had just started.
KING: Had no problem previously?
RUSSELL: None whatsoever.
KING: What did you think of the idea, Mark?
MARK KENDALL, GREAT WHITE MEMBER: I was kind of told it would be used. And just to go to the front of the stage, because it was going to be used in the early part of the set. And I didn't really think too much about it. And then the opening band was like filming our shows. I saw Jack standing right in it. And I go doesn't it do anything? And he goes, no, it is cold sparks, you can't feel it. So, I thought it -- you know...
KING: So, when you had used it in previous evenings at other places, no problem?
What happened, Jack, that night.
ED MCPHERSON, ATTORNEY FOR GREAT WHITE: You know, Larry, unfortunately because of certain legal issues, because of legal proceedings, we really can't talk about what happened that night. I think that...
KING: Can't talk about what happened that night?
We really can't. Not the band members that the point.
KING: So, what can they talk about in.
MCPHERSON: We can certainly talk about the aftermath and the healing and working with the Station Family Fund.
KING: They can't talk about what it is like to be on stage or what was it like to experience being in a fire? They can talk about that, right?
MCPHERSON: Well, I think certainly the survivors can. But I'm real hesitant. I'm sorry. I hate to to turn this into a legal thing, but I'm real hesitant to let them go forward talk about that night, particularly because of the positions we have taken in the civil lawsuits.
KING: But in the aftermath, was it hard, Jack to get out?
RUSSELL: Actually, I was pulled out. I'm not sure who pulled me out the back door. To this, day I don't know. I kept trying to go back in and make sure my guys and people had gotten out. I kept getting pulled out and pulled out. And finally I just couldn't see in there. I thought the lights had gone out. Not -- never knowing that the fire was going to go as bad as it was. Nobody knew.
KING: Was it hard for you to get out, Mark?
KENDALL: No. I just saw the side door open. And I felt like I should go out the door just to get out of the way so they could put it out because it didn't look that bad. So, I was very easy to get out. But once I was out, I did see it get a little worse.
KING: Did you know that had happened to your guitarist?
RUSSELL: No. Nobody knew. We didn't know anything about Ty until the next day. I was looking for everybody after we got out. And I went to the front of the building -- and we all thought the same time it would be put out, we would go back in in and finish the show. That was the original thought.
KING: Really? Were you injured?
KING: Were you injured?
KING: Now, they have not, Ed, been charged with anything, have they? Not criminally.
MCPHERSON: That is correct.
KING: They were just members of the band that were playing, right?
MCPHERSON: That is correct.
KING: Are they charged civilly?
MCPHERSON: Certainly. There are 8 lawsuits that have been filed against many defendants. And the 7 of the 8 lawsuits, no members of the band were named except for Jack Russell. But...
KING: Why is that?
MCPHERSON: I don't know. I think because Jack was the leader of the band and the owner of the corporation. And I think people just felt that he...
KING: He's the one to sue. MCPHERSON: Apparently.
KING: A photographer, Brian Butler happened to be shooting video at the club that night. You're about to hear his description of that evening. I do need to caution you that some of the pictures you're about to see might be hard to watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN BUTLER, PHOTOGRAPHER: 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 bad, they didn't think anything of it. Well, I guess once we all started turning toward the door and we got -- 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Ed, is there defense in civil lawsuits or any kind is that they were just performing? That they didn't cause the fire?
MCPHERSON: Well, certainly if you look at all the facts. And we certainly have, and I think many people that have understand that this club was basically a horrible tragic event waiting to happen. Between...
KING: The club itself.
MCPHERSON: The club itself. Between the polyurethane foam on the ceiling that is petroleum based, that spreads fire faster than gasoline, to the one exit door that opened inward. Imagine 400 people in your back trying to get out and it opens inward. They had been cited, I think, 5 times by the fire department and kept changing it, taking it off. And then putting in back.
There was one fire extinguisher in the entire place. They were over capacity by at least 100. Certainly, those elements in my mind caused this.
KING: What was it like to deal with Jack, afterwards, emotionally for you?
RUSSELL: You know, it is still very hard. There is not a day that goes by that you don't think about that. I mean, the initial reaction was I was completely in shock. It was almost surreal to a point. The therapy is ongoing. As I'm sure with everybody there is.
I'm one of the lucky ones myself. I got out. And -- but I don't think anybody that was there came away unharmed some way or another. KING: For you, Mark?
KENDALL: Well, I, you know, I went and talked to a few psychotherapists until I settled on one that I could actually felt like I could kind of pour my heart out to. And just prayer, praying with my pastor.
I felt like I was getting temporary relief from that. But being able to go out and, you know, be a part of this crusade to help the families of the victims has been -- and the fellowship, that's been the best part of the human process for me.
KING: We're going to have survivors on. And there is an organization, we understand, out to help people. We're going to get into all of that.
We'll take a break. We'll be right back. Reliving a horror. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have fully engulfed -- fully engulfed building. We have people on fire inside. Fire apparatus is on scene. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
We've got a stampede. Send more cars. We have multiple people trapped. We're dragging them out one by one.
We need more rescues. We have at least 400 people with severe burns. At least another hundred inside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Received.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need as many personnel as people down here."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was like a big wave of people just floating towards the front door. And then when we got to the front door, somebody fell and then everybody fell on top of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People started to panic when the smoke overtook them. It was just a mad crush getting out the door. And everybody went down the stairs and fell on top of one another. And it was just horrible and it happened all in the blink of an eye.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Jack Russell, Mark Kendall, original members of Great White and their attorney Ed McPherson. You had the personal loss of Ty Longley, your guitarist. His father is going to be with us in a little while. You also lost, what, a roadie, a friend of the band, Jeff Raider (ph)?
RUSSELL: Jeff Raider, yes. He was a good friend of ours. He used to do our T-shirts and he also worked with the band in other capacities over the years. A great guy. There wasn't a person there really that we didn't really know. You have to understand that we have been doing this club and these shows for over 20 years. And we watched these people grow up. They're all our friends. They weren't just ticket stubs to us. These are our family.
KING: You knew people in the audience?
KENDALL: Faces -- I did know Jeff Raider personally. And obviously Ty and a few of the people that were injured, our sound man and crew guy.
KING: Pyrotechnics are used a lot, right, Ed? I mean, they're not uncommon to have indoor flames in clubs.
ED MCPHERSON, ATTORNEY FOR ROCK BAND GREAT WHITE: That's correct. And this particular set of pyrotechnics I refer to as special effects, it was really like a sparkle or a fountain that you see on Fourth of July. They're made for indoor use.
KING: If there was a defect, it was where, in the walls?
MCPHERSON: That's my position that essentially polyurethane on the ceiling and wall that is flame not retardant as it is supposed to be but accelerant is a real problem. I don't think anything would have happened but for that flame accelerant in the wall and on the ceiling.
KING: Was it hard to go back to work, Jack?
RUSSELL: You know, very hard. I don't -- I think if it wasn't for the fact of the Station Family Fund, you know, people that we'd been working with over the couple of years to raise money for the families and I don't think we would have done it. It was that and the literally tens of thousands of e-mails we have gotten from people around the world, you know, supporting the band and telling me how much the music meant to them and how much it changed their lives in a positive aspect is what really got me back on the horse. Because there was times I thought I can't do this again. How can I go back and -- where is the fun going to be? How can you smile again? How can you, you know?
KING: Are you touring, Mark?
KENDALL: Yes. I was in the same position as Jack is. I didn't even touch my guitar, I don't think, for at least four months until I found out that, wow, we can actually help. And, you know, I was all for that. There is just no question. I talked to my wife, she said, yes, go for it. You can help and it's great.
RUSSELL: We're back on the road again in March.
KING: You're doing a tour in March? RUSSELL: Yes, we start again in March. We had the last few months off. Generally we tour from usually March until October.
KING: Are you recording?
RUSSELL: No. We're planning on doing some of that maybe later in the year. Right now our focus is just on helping raise awareness...
KING: Where was the first place you worked after the fire?
RUSSELL: I believe it was Sterling, Colorado, wasn't it?
KENDALL: Yes. It started in Sterling, Colorado.
KING: Then actually no pyrotechnics were used?
RUSSELL: No, of course not.
KING: Was it a big crowd?
RUSSELL: Yes. I would say about 1,200 people.
KING: Were you nervous?
RUSSELL: I wouldn't say so much nervous but just a little apprehensive and not really sure how to go about doing your show in a politically correct way. You don't want to go out there and have too much of a good time but then you don't want to cheat the people out of seeing a show. So how do you balance that?
KING: Yes, what do you do? Do you laugh?
KENDALL: We didn't want to treat it like a wake. But we wanted people to enjoy it. But also raise awareness to the fund and what it was all about. And we had fans like -- that were like -- there was one guy that paid $400 for four tickets because he knew it was going to the Station Family Fund.
KING: The Station was the name of the club.
KING: It's called the Station Family Fund. We'll discuss that. Find out how people can help.
KING: Do you ever feel, Jack and you too, Mark, why me, why did I live?
RUSSELL: You know, I thought of that for a long time. There was kind of a survivor's guilt thing that people go through, I hear about in tragedies of this magnitude. And for the longest time I did that, why me? Why couldn't this happen to somebody else? And then my wife is saying, you know what, Jack, it is like God gives you things that you can handle and maybe he gave you this for a reason. And what are you going to do with this? Are you going to try to help people or are you going to sit there and feel sorry for yourself and hide in the house or are you going to go out there and do something positive and help your friends out? So that was kind of, like, OK, now I know what I got to do.
KING: Do you, Mark?
KENDALL: Yes, well, you know, to be a survivor of that is -- it is really amazing when I saw the tapes on TV and stuff. I couldn't believe that was the same place that I was that night. And -- but, you know, being able to help is...
KING: But do you ever feel like why me? Why did I get out and...
KING: Why did Ty die?
KENDALL: I don't understand that to this day. Because it seemed very easy to get out in the early stages as I think once they opened the doors, that created the...
RUSSELL: Well, for us. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) backed up for us because there was a door in the back right near the stage. So the people that were running away from the stage, it was a whole different story.
KENDALL: Because of so many people being in the club, they were all trying to go out one exit and I think two of the other -- I just know they were all going out one door.
KING: Your music would be described as what, hard...
RUSSELL: I would say hard rock.
KENDALL: Kind of a blues rock, if you will.
KING: Have you changed the music at all?
RUSSELL: You know what? We haven't really done any writing. It is just -- I haven't been in that space yet even almost two years later. I just haven't felt like writing songs yet. And I kind of feel like it's another hurdle I need to overcome. But at this point, my main focus and my main goal is to keep the band touring and try to raise money.
KING: Where was this band formed?
RUSSELL: Los Angeles.
KING: Right here?
KING: Legally when is this going to court? Or do you see settlements civilly?
MCPHERSON: We're just really starting the civil lawsuits. They've been consolidated in federal court before Judge Legur (ph) in Rhode Island. There were several states in which they filed lawsuits. Best estimate is it will take three or four years really to get to trial.
KING: Are some of the survivors we have coming on involved in the suits?
MCPHERSON: You know what, I'm not sure to tell you the truth.
KING: We'll ask them. We'll be right back with Jack Russell, Mark Kendall, Ed McPherson and we'll be joined by two survivors, Donovan Williams who suffered burns over 57 percent of his body and left blind, and Linda Fisher, burned over one-third of her body with arms and hands sustaining the worst damage. They'll join us while Jack, Mark and Ed remain. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was that fast. As soon as the pyrotechnics stopped, the flame had started on the egg crate backing behind the stage. And it just went up the ceiling and people stood and watched it and some people backed off. When I turned around, some people were already trying to leave and others were just sitting there going, yes, that's great! And I remember that statement because I was like this is not great. This is time to leave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the smoke started coming through the building, there was no escaping it. I mean, the crowd just all of a sudden turned and all started to go out the front door. And at that point, I mean, there was really nothing anybody could do. I mean, it became a giant jam.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not to be horrified, skin was melting and you could see it. I saw something that looked like, you know, Hiroshima.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just horrifying, terrifying experience that I will remember for the rest of many I life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back discussing that night nearly two years ago, February 20th, 2003, the station nightclub.
Jack Russell, Mark Kendall, Ed McPherson. We're joined now by Donovan Williams, fire survivor, suffered burns over 75 percent of his body and is left blind.
Are you totally blind, Donovan?
DONOVAN WILLIAMS, BLINDED, BURNED IN NIGHT CLUB FIRE: I am totally blind in in my right eye. And my left eye about -- I probably about 30 percent vision, maybe.
KING: And Linda Fisher was burned over one-third of her body with her arms and hands sustaining the worst damage, and that's as best they can do with repairing, right?
LINDA FISHER, BURNED BADLY IN CLUB FIRE: Yes.
KING: So, your going to have those the rest of your life?
KING: Those scars. All right, Donovan, why did you go that night?
WILLIAMS: Honestly, I just went, to basicly go out to basically go out for a beer. I was home that night painting my apartment that I had just gotten a few weeks earlier. And went down there to have a drink, go out for a little while.
KING: Did you know the group?
WILLIAMS: I knew the group. Not, you know, was not like a huge fan. I knew the band back in the early '80s. I had the first album, second album. But I got there like 10 minutes before it started. So, didn't get to finish, my beer.
KING: Linda, why did you go?
FISHER: I was a frequent customer of the club. And I'm a true '80s child.
KING: You're a singer too, right? You can -- boys say you can sing?
FISHER: I've gotten on stage with a few bands, yes. I...
KING: Did you go to see them?
KING: OK. Where were you, Donovan, in proximity in the club, where were you?
WILLIAMS: I was by the sound board, which is probably in the middle of the club.
KING: What do you remember?
WILLIAMS: Honestly I went to the bathroom, went to the bar, got a beer, went to the bathroom, came out and they were doing the intro. And the band started, and you know, the pyros went up and you see the flames. And -- my first react was, you know, little flare-up, you know, is it going to go out or somebody is going to put it out. Or you know -- and the next thing you know it was just like a tidal wave of black smoke and just turned around and went for the front door.
KING: How quick did you lose sight?
WILLIAMS: My eyesight?
WILLIAMS: I could see -- I passed out in the building. When the fire department got there I was pulled out by a fireman or somebody there. I came conscious to water on my head, so. But I had sight then, walked to the ambulance, was in the emergency room had sight, two months later when I woke up from my coma...
KING: You were in a two month coma?
WILLIAMS: Medicated coma for two months, yes.
KING: They medicated you to avoid pain.
KING: Was it your opening number, Jack?
RUSSELL: Yes, it was.
KING: So, it was immediate.
RUSSELL: It was immediate, yes.
KING: Were you, Linda.
FISHER: I was selling merchandise for the band that night. I was off in the atrium with the T-shirts and the CDs.
KING: So, you weren't even close up in the club.
FISHER: No, I was off to the side which probably saved me.
KING: So, how did you get burned so bad?
FISHER: I knew the layout of the club. And my friend that was with me, I had told her to stay on the floor, you know. Wait for help, which obviously didn't arrive. I stood up to go kick out window to my left and just from the heat, I sustained the burns.
KING: How long were you hospitalized?
FISHER: Seven weeks. I don't remember the first three, I was in medicated coma.
KING: Did they have to knock you out too.
KING: That's they put you into the coma because the pain from fire is so terrible, right.
FISHER: That and you're usually on a respirator and you can't be conscious while your on that because you'll fight it.
KING: Are you involved, Donovan, in the civil lawsuits?
KING: So you're suing them?
WILLIAMS: I don't know what I'm doing.
KING: You're following your lawyers?
WILLIAMS: How about those Patriots, huh?
KING: OK, Donovan.
Linda, are you involved?
FISHER: I think the majority of us are.
KING: Who are you suing?
FISHER: Whoever my lawyer feels should be sued.
KING: All right. How do you feel about Jack and Mark?
FISHER: I feel that their job that evening was to get on that stage and entertain me, it wasn't their job to set up the pyrotechnics, to set them off, to check, you know, the building's safety systems. I -- that wasn't their job.
KING: You don't blame them at all?
FISHER: When I first woke up, I did. But, you know, after gathering my own information, no, not at this -- not directly.
WILLIAMS: Yes, sir.
KING: What do you think of...
WILLIAMS: What do I think of them? I don't know. My opinion is probably the same about -- as about you. You know, just a voice I hear on TV or the radio.
KING: You don't have any animosity toward them?
WILLIAMS: That's a strong word, Larry. I don't know. I know when I woke up I was...
KING: Some people might say -- it may not have been their fault, but it was their act. The fire went on while they were on.
FISHER: Yes, but they didn't intend for this.
KING: Of course not. You don't -- if you blame somebody, you're not blaming the group?
FISHER: Not per se. There is a lot of...
KING: I don't want to put words in your mouth.
FISHER: You know, there is -- it's kind of like driving down a foggy road. You know, you think you're on the road alone, you crash into five other people who thought they were alone and they got their lights off. You know, every -- each person made an individual mistake which when converged was a catastrophe.
KING: Donovan, is there anyone you blame in particular?
WILLIAMS: Let's see, I don't know. I blame the stop light that turned green and I went if I turned red I would have been late.
FISHER: You would have been a little later.
KING: You're not into blame?
WILLIAMS: Larry, it's not my job to blame anybody.
KING: How about anger?
WILLIAMS: I'm a happy guy, I guess, for the most part. You know, I got...
KING: You got the Patriot. You got the Red Sox.
WILLIAMS: I got to have my kids. That's pretty much my happiness.
KING: Mark is it hard for you to be with them?
KENDALL: It's hard and it's great at the same time because of the fellowship and...
KING: You formed a fellowship?
KENDALL: Yes. It was hard at first. But, you know, the more we get together, the easier it gets.
RUSSELL: Well, of course it is difficult. You know, I wouldn't want to see anybody pain or injured, I mean, regardless of how it started or how it came about. They're wonderful people. And I have so much, so much compassion and just the courage to me is just amazing.
KING: This is... RUSSELL: We all came out of there and we're all hurt, I think, more so for myself. I'm -- the emotional pain I'm going to go through the rest of my life. You know I cant -- like I said before, I'm one of the lucky ones. I'm not comparing my pain to anybody else's, because you can't do that, at least, I can't. But I'm just honored to know them.
KING: Ed, legally it is a little strange to sit here between what might be litigants?
MCPHERSON: Sure. I think it is.
KING: Has to be unusual as a lawyer.
MCPHERSON: It's certainly unusual as a lawyer.
KING: Usually for as a host for show.
MCPHERSON: But you know what, as a lawyer, this whole thing was a bigger catastrophe than most lawyers have to deal with. I've dealt with problems before. I've dealt with some deaths before in relations to the bands that I've represented, but never anything like this. I don't think any -- anyone has ever dealt with anything like this.
KING: No. I guess not. We'll take a break and come back and we'll meet John Patrick, Pat Longley, the father of Great White guitarist Ty Longley who died in the fire. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF DERDERIAN, CO-OWNER OF CLUB THAT BURNED: Somehow live with this grief like so many other people for the rest of our lives. And we'll never forget those who we needlessly lost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Him and his friend went to the place. His friend went to Lady of Fathom (ph) and they couldn't find my son Joe. And we panicked. Finally went to Canconi Hospital (ph), they said finally after half hour or an hour or so, they found out he was there. Then they transported him to here. He's in the trauma unit, intense intensive care. He's heavily sedated. He's on a breathing apparatus. He's burned pretty bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: There is a Web site, by the way, in which you can help the victims and survivors. It is called stationfamilyfund, one word, stationfamilyfund.org.
And you're all cooperating in this, right?
KING: In raising money for it?
RUSSELL: That's why we're here.
KING: We now welcome John Patrick -- or Pat Longley. He's the father of Great White guitarist Ty Longley who died in the fire.
Where were you that night, Pat?
JOHN PATRICK LONGLEY, FATHER OF TY LONGLEY: I was just retiring, going to bed. And my daughter called up and...
KING: Where do you live?
P. LONGLEY: I live in Hartford, Ohio, which is right over the PA line.
KING: Did you know he was playing that night in...
P. LONGLEY: Yes, I did. And my daughter called up and said...
KING: His sister?
P. LONGLEY: That's correct. Now, his friend Manny from Colorado called up and said the club that Ty is playing in is on fire. I ran down, turned the TV on. And at that point in time Audrey had told me that Mark Kendall was the missing guitarist. And I was on the phone trying to reach Ty, but to no avail.
KING: How did you learn -- who told you that he had died?
P. LONGLEY: Well, at that point in time she called up 2 hours later and said that Ty was the missing guitarist. I said let's make plans now to go to Rhode Island. So, we got up to Rhode Island, probably about noon the next day. And at that point in time we still don't know his fate.
I ran into Jack. We sort of went to emergency rooms, hoping to find some news. And I ended up going back to the hotel and says I might as well wait here. And the next day, we found out.
KING: How have you dealt with this?
P. LONGLEY: Well, it is tough. It is tough. You shed a tear every day. But you go on living. And I'm trying my best to keep his memory alive.
KING: Was he married?
P. LONGLEY: No, he wasn't. He had a girlfriend.
KING: What kind of kid was he?
P. LONGLEY: He was a clown. I don't know anybody that did not like the kid. He made me the proudest father in the world. KING: Yes.
How do you guys feel toward him? Well, first of all, Mark, you feel kind of a little unusual that they heard a guitarist had died and he first thought was it might have been you?
KENDALL: Yes. Well, I was told at one point that he was out and then they said that no, he wasn't. Yes, it was strange because we went on the bus and we were watching the news and stuff and it was strange. They kept showing my picture saying I was missing. And I had to reassure my mother. And then my cell phone wasn't working, that I was OK. And everything.
KING: Jack, what was Ty like?
RUSSELL: He was great guy. He was like my little Gilligan, you know what I mean? Just a sweetheart of a guy.
KING: A fun guy Donovan would have liked, right?
RUSSELL: Oh, yes. He was a great guy.
KENDALL: That make you Skippy?
RUSSELL: No. He was a great guy, a wonderful person. He was a Great guitarist. Just a joy to be around. He was always -- if I wasn't feeling good or -- I had been very sick on the road. I had pneumonia and stuff. And he was always making me feel good before show. Don't worry, you'll be great, Jack.
KING: Are you involved in the suit, Pat?
P. LONGLEY: Unfortunately, because of Ty's son, I had to sign some papers to sue on his behalf. But I made it known to him, the attorneys, I did not want to sue band at all. I find no fault with them.
KING: Who do you find fault with?
P. LONGLEY: Well, you know, the people that aren't being point out is the city itself, the inspection people. That probably should have never been open. I work in construction. And I know the paperwork that we have to go through. And the place shouldn't have been open. That's all there is to it.
KING: For anything?
P. LONGLEY: For anything.
KING: That was a fire hazard...
P. LONGLEY: It was an accident waiting to happen. As Mark said that night, they were playing in a gas station.
KING: Yet they'll never play with it again, right? No matter what you... RUSSELL: No. That would be a slap in the face of too many people anyway. That was never our thing to begin with. It was just something we tried at the suggestion of my past manager. And obviously it went completely...
KING: Is the city a logical defendant, Ed?
MCPHERSON: You know, that's not really for me to say. I'm not representing some of the other defendants. So they are a definite...
KING: You're not representing the city?
MCPHERSON: Certainly not. And I know that they are a defendant, I think, in all of the suits.
KING: Though Donovan, the more you learn about this, don't you feel a little anger toward -- if that building was not right, that people passed inspection.
WILLIAMS: Well, I had been in the club before many times. And I was there before they had the foam up around the stage and around the front of the stage. And it always seemed -- I always felt like weird or claustrophobic when I went close to the stage with that foam. Something never -- it just didn't normal to see that in a club. Just it is not...
KING: You, Linda? You think the city erred?
FISHER: Definitely. I mean, people -- they have all jumped on the bandwagon and said we're going to enact all these laws and we're going to protect you, but if you check it out there were plenty of laws in effect that evening that should have protected us. That just no one followed through on.
KING: You're a beautiful woman.
FISHER: Thank you.
KING: How have you dealt with this?
FISHER: I think my husband, my daughter, my family and friends just the attitude that I got from them when I first woke up that none of this matters, the scars, that that is not who they see. And, you know...
KING: Who do you see?
FISHER: I see me.
Sometimes I see people staring at my scars and scuff stuff and I have to make sure I'm wearing pants, because I forget that I'm scarred. I think I left the house without a piece of clothing or something.
KING: What was it like to be in a coma, Donovan? You don't know, do you? There is a dumb question. When you woke up, when you woke up, let's bring it back, I meant when you wake up -- time had expired.
WILLIAMS: Yes. It is -- I'm still heavily on morphine. It is first few weeks, it was really a blur. I was hallucinating major, because I was blind and you coming out of this and you're on morphine and your mind is playing tricks on you.
I was freaking people out. They didn't know what was going on. Because the stories I was telling them, they didn't know why -- why I was blind and if I was ever going to come back or not. And then why I was...
KING: Did the fire cause you to be blind? Were you burned somewhere that...
WILLIAMS: Well, what the doctors say is it could have been the toxicity, lack of air, the heat, swelling, they don't really -- it is optic nerve damage. My eyes are actually fine. It is the nerve connecting to my eye...
KING: What was it like, Linda, when you woke up?
FISHER: It was just before my birthday. So everybody was kind of like, you know you got to wake up, it is your birthday. It was kind of surreal. It was -- I didn't realize it was a hospital room, I thought it was a really bad nursing home. I said to myself, this is what happens when you have bad insurance.
KING: What was it like when you looked in the mirror?
FISHER: The first time my friend that I had gone with that night, she had brought me a mirror. And I sort of glanced into it and my face was pretty heavily damaged at the time. And I really couldn't look. And a couple of days later when I was alone, I had my nurse bring me a mirror and basically lost it. You know, 33 is too young to lose your face, your looks, for women that is pretty important.
KING: Again, this tragedy, the compassion of all of us goes out to everyone involved.
Again, to help the stationfamilyfund.org, we'll fiend out how that works. And when we come back, one more survivor will join us, Victoria Potvin. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: C 11. I want all officers to call in. Everybody sound a call.
All units are accounted for.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Headquarters received. C 11 copy. All units accounted for, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sergeant. The Chief wants you to call the M.E.'s office. Advise them that we have a mass casualty incident here. They're going have to institute some kind of a plan to get down here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I noticed when the pyros stopped, the flame had kept going on both sides. And then on one side I noticed it come over the top. And that's when I said I have to leave.
And I turned around and said get out, get out, get to the door. Get to the door. And people just stood there. There was a table in the way at the door and I pulled that out just to get it out of wait so people could get out easier. And I never expected it to take off as fast as it did. It was so fast. It had to be two minutes, tops, before the whole place was black smoke.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us on this extraordinary night are Jack Russell, one of the original members of the band Great White, Mark Kendall, one of the original members, guitarist, Ed Mcpherson, lead attorney for Great White, Donovan Williams, the survivor who suffered burns over 75 percent of his body and left blind, Linda Fisher, another fire survivor, burned over one third of her body, Pat Longley, the father of the Great White guitarist Ty Longley who died in the fire.
And we're joined now by Victoria Potvin, a fire survivor. She received minor injuries. One friend she was with died, three others seriously injured. She's president of the Station Family Fund. That family funds and all volunteer non-profit organization founded to offer assistance and relief to people directly affected by the nightclub fire.
By the way, we did contact a lot of people, all of whom offered no comment. The defendants, the owners of the club, the tour manager, the Rhode Island attorney general all refused to comment. Two musicians who were playing also declined to comment.
Are they no long we are you: David Filici (ph) and Douglas Powers?
RUSSELL: No, they're no longer with the band.
KING: Did they quit over this? RUSSELL: They were young, it was really hard for them to deal with.
KING: Do you ever seen them?
RUSSELL: Oh, yeah, we saw them -- they came down to our show a few months ago.
KING: Victoria, where were you that night?
VICTORIA POTVIN, NIGHTCLUB FIRE SURVIVOR: I was about 3 people back from the center of the stage at the club with 4 might have friends.
KING: What do you remember?
POTVIN: I remember almost everything unfortunately.
KING: So tell us.
POTVIN: My friend that I was with noticed the flames nearly right away. We were watching Jack on stage. And we turned around and made our way to the front door where we had come in.
Been to the club many times. We actually walked that night. I lived very close. And we were separated in the crowd. Two of the people that I was with were trapped in the pileup in the doorway. And were pretty badly injured.
And my -- another friend and I made it around past the doorway and were actually pulled from a window. One of my girlfriends that I was with actually picked me up off off of the ground and flung me toward the window.
KING: Who died?
POTVIN: A fifth friend of ours that we were with.
KING: How did she die in.
POTVIN: It was a male. We don't really know.
KING: So he.
POTVIN: He died in the club.
KING: How do get over something like that?
POTVIN: I don't think you do.
KING: Do you?
POTVIN: Absolutely not. Something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I think all of us will.
KING: So, you formed this organization? POTVIN: Myself and a group of other survivors that had gotten to know one another after the fire met one another online on a message board and spoke all hours of the night. We formed our own little support group online.
And we had heard there were some people that weren't getting assistance and that were going to lose their home. One young woman in particular we read an article in the paper she was going to lose her home due to her injuries in the fire and we decided we need to try and help. So we formed a nonprofit organization and looked into all of the legalities. And just started having some really grassroots fund- raisers. And that's what it has been for about 18 months now.
KING: You hold -- what do you hold? Dinners and...
POTVIN: Everything. We've had small local concerts, we've had car washes, we've had bake sales, we've spaghetti suppers, we've karaoke contests.
KING: Have they helped you, Linda?
FISHER: Yes. I probably wouldn't have my home now if it wasn't for the fund. My husband had to stay home and take care of me.
KING: So people watching, all they have to do is -- all one word, stationfamilyfund.org, right?
POTVIN: You got it.
KING: And you're the president of the group?
POTVIN: I am.
KING: Do you bear any ill will toward Jack or Mark?
POTVIN: You know, I think that blame is a very counterproductive emotion. And I that it takes a lot of energy to hold anger. And I let go of that a long time ago. From just about anybody.
I have, you know, some feelings towards many different individuals. I don't think that you can ever forgive everybody 100 percent. I wouldn't be human if I were to say that I didn't hold any resentment. But I think that being positive and turning something that was such a horrible tragedy into something positive and trying to move forward and be proactive is such -- such a more important thing to do than to try and run around pointing a finger.
KING: Jack, you ever feel any emotional guilt?
RUSSELL: Of course. How you not? Anybody being involved in something like that, I would be lying if I said, no, of course I don't feel bad or guilty because people got hurt. They're our fans they came to see us play. I mean, if we had an earthquake and the building would have fell on them, I'd still feel guilty too. It's just a horrible thing to happen
KING: Let's include a phone call. San Diego, hello.
CALLER: How are you doing?
CALLER: Listen, I just want to make a comment. I've seen Great White 10 times in concert. Jack Russell is one of the purest rock 'n' roll voices ever. Mark Kendall is one of the best blues guitarists, especially on Roadhouse Blues. Now my question, actually, I have 2 part question. What motivated you guys to use pyrotechnics since you're such a good live band, No. 1? And No. 2, when are you coming out with a complete live album to show your raw show?
KING: OK. For those of you who couldn't hear, some of you couldn't hear, he said he loves the band and been a fan of this for a long time. Asked when they'll do another album? And why did they need pyrotechnics at all?
MCPHERSON: Larry, I'm sorry, I have to interject at this point because that is part of the lawsuit. And I think he can certainly answer the second question, but I think...
RUSSELL: OK. Going on to the album thing...
KING: He can't dispense why -- it's part of the lawsuit that they were involved in using the pyrotechnic...
MCPHERSON: That's correct.
KING: OK. Can't answer that part.
RUSSELL: Sorry about that.
I don't know, we're not really sure when another album is going to come out. At this point, like I said earlier in the show, our main focus right now is to really just raise as much awareness, as much money for the fund as we can. That involves mostly staying on the road and...
KING: Do you give portions of the...
RUSSELL: Yes, we have and we always will. Something that we'll do as long as this band is playing.
KING: Boston, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Mr. Russell, Mr. Kendall. Great fan. Just wondered, the community reached out to the Station Fund. We were just wondering has any artist or musicians reached out to the band?
RUSSELL: You know, there has been a few. There has been a few other people and other bands that have been very supportive for us. Not as many as I would hope for to be honest with you. I mean, I really felt that there was a lot more camaraderie in this business than I feel that there is now after this tragedy. I was hoping that more bands would come forward, more successful bands than we are, you know, and help out. And I'm hoping there is still a chance or maybe this will get their attention and say, hey, there are still people here that need help.
I mean, there is a lot of fans that weren't just Great White fans there that night. So I think it behooves us all as just musicians or just as human beings to help out our fellow Americans here, you know.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF DERDERIAN, CO-OWNER OF THE CLUB THAT BURNED: We realize there is very little we can say that will provide comfort to the thousands of people that have been affected by this horrific tragedy.
PATRICK LYNCH, RHODE ISLAND ATTORNEY GENERAL: I would hope that Mr. Derderian is as cooperative with the law enforcement agencies involved in this investigation as he has been with the press.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We only have a couple of moments left. Again if you want to help, you're helping a lot of people in a lot of bad straits. It is Stationfamilyfund.org. That's one word. Stationfamilyfund.org. Victoria Potvin is its president. We're also asking other musical groups, anyone involved in the business who wants to help. There is lots of things we can do, concerts, dinners, just giving portions of proceeds. Do you think, Ed, these new laws will help passed in some states?
MCPHERSON: I hope so. But as Linda said there were certain laws -- there were laws precluding polyurethane on the ceiling, things like that. But I think they definitely will. I think after the fire, the one good thing that happened after the fire was people started raiding clubs here in Los Angeles. They were checking clubs. There were chained doors in the back. And other places around the country. They were checking the clubs the way they probably should have forever. People were blocking exit doors. And suddenly there was all kinds of scrutiny on this.
KING: Donovan, you go out to clubs now?
WILLIAMS: I've been to some, yes.
KING: Do you, Linda?
FISHER: Seven days after I got out of the hospital, I made my husband take me out to a karaoke bar. I was still in bandages and everything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's a trooper.
KING: How old are your children?
FISHER: My daughter is almost 15 and my stepson will be 18 in a few weeks.
KING: How did she take this?
FISHER: She was the only one smart enough in the hospital to -- because I couldn't speak -- she had written out a sheet of paper with the alphabet so I could spell out what I wanted instead of everybody trying to figure it out.
KING: She's handled it well?
FISHER: Yes. If it wasn't for her, when my husband went back to work, she helped take over with the showers and cooking and...
KING: You go to clubs, Victoria?
POTVIN: I still do.
KING: Still do.
FISHER: With me usually.
KING: You've become all...
POTVIN: We've become very good friends, you know.
KING: Friendships have developed out of this.
POTVIN: Didn't know any of these people before.
KING: And of course, Pat, the memory of your son will always be present.
LONGLEY: Right. Right.
KING: Thank you all very much. Jack Russell, Mark Kendall, Ed McPherson, Donovan Williams, Linda Fisher, Pat Longley and Victoria Potvin. And again, Stationfamilyfund.org. That's one word. Stationfamilyfund.org. Couldn't help a worthier cause.
I'll back in a couple of minutes and tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.
KING: It is Grammy week. So tomorrow night, Joe and Tina Simpson will be with us, the parents of Ashlee and Jessica Simpson. If you haven't heard of them, you're on another planet. And we'll also have a Grammy preview, Clive David and others will be among the guests.
A man known on -- Clive Davis, I'm sorry. I said Clive David. I see it's Clive Davis. Always get corrected by the staff. That's their job. But I only work here. And standing by is Aaron Brown to host "NEWSNIGHT."
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