Band Manager Pleads Guilty in R.I. Club Fire

The former rock band tour manager who lit the pyrotechnics that sparked a deadly nightclub fire pleaded guilty Tuesday to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Daniel Biechele will serve no more than 10 years in prison under the plea deal, which comes two weeks shy of the three-year anniversary of the deadly fire at The Station nightclub and avoids what would have been the first criminal trial in the case.

The Feb. 20, 2003 fire, the fourth-deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history, killed 100 people and injured more than 200 others.

Biechele, 29, set off a flashy pyrotechnics display during a concert by the rock band Great White at the West Warwick club. Sparks from the pyrotechnics ignited flammable soundproofing foam inside the club, fueling a fast-moving fire that quickly enveloped the one-story wooden building and trapped concertgoers.

Biechele and Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, the brothers who owned the nightclub, were each indicted in December 2003 on 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter — two for every person who died. Each count carries a maximum of 30 years in prison. No one else has been charged.

The Derderians, accused of installing the foam, have pleaded not guilty.

Biechele pleaded guilty to 100 counts that accused him of lighting the pyrotechnics without the required permit, resulting in the deaths. The other 100 counts will be dismissed, sparing Biechele what could have been many more years behind bars.

Some relatives of those killed in the fire have criticized the plea agreement, saying they wanted to see Biechele stand trial.