Published February 22, 2003
WARWICK, R.I. – Patricia Belanger trembled outside Rhode Island Hospital as she clutched a photograph of her daughter.
"I saw the pictures and I said, 'Oh my God, I hope she got out,"' Belanger said of Dina DeMaio, a waitress at the West Warwick nightclub where 96 people died in a fire that broke out during a rock band's pyrotechnics display.
Nine bodies had been identified by Saturday morning, leaving anguished relatives to travel from hospital to hospital looking for their loved ones. More than 180 people were injured.
Belanger called all the hospitals that have accepted patients from Thursday night's fire since finding DeMaio's car still outside the club. She has not found her daughter.
DeMaio was working at The Station as a part-time waitress to help support herself and her 7-year-old son, Justin.
"He knows his mother didn't come back," she said.
George Kulz was carrying a photograph of his younger brother, 30-year-old Michael, to all the hospitals.
"I just need to know" whether Kulz survived, his brother said. "Nobody told us anything at all."
More than 100 people gathered at a family center the Red Cross set up at a Warwick hotel, where grief counselors and clergy offered support.
Kulz described his brother as a drummer, grocery store worker and rabid fan of Great White, the 1980s heavy metal act that was onstage when the fire erupted.
"He has the T-shirts. He loves Great White," said Kulz, 32.
Guitarist Ty Longley, 31, was among the missing. His father, Pat Longley, of Sharon, Pa., traveled to Rhode Island with the musician's sister. "We're sort of hoping he's in a hospital somewhere," he said.
Longley's mother, Mary Pat Frederickson of Valdosta, Ga., told The Herald of Sharon she had always feared for her son's safety, but not on stage: "Only on airplanes, buses."
Recovering at Rhode Island Hospital, Chris Nowicki, who had been inside The Station, couldn't shake the memories of a young woman's cries for help.
"I had some poor girl under me screaming hysterically to get off her," said Nowicki, 30. "I couldn't move an inch but I tried to pull her out. I'm not sure if she ended up getting out."
Nowicki suffered second-degree burns on his hands, back, and legs, along with bruises from being trampled.
Mario Cardillo almost lost his wife, Kathy, after climbing out a window of the club, turning back and finding her gone, said Kathy's father, Lloyd Powell.
She reached a window, too, but was knocked down. Someone stepped on her forehead and back. She got up anyway and escaped.
"She can't close her eyes because that's all she sees -- the smoke and being trampled," Powell said.
Other people's coats or hair caught fire as they fled. Some fleeing patrons cut themselves on broken windows.
Arthur "Jamie" Conway's shoes started to melt. "It was the most unbelievable heat I've ever felt in my life, and the flames weren't even on me," said Conway, of Pembroke, Mass.
There were a few happy, relieved endings for some relatives, including a man who learned at the hotel that his daughter was safe.
Said Nick Logothets, director of disaster services for the Red Cross of Rhode Island: "We were able to tell him she was fine, `Go call your wife,' and everybody cheered."