News Segment


May 10, 2006

Former Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele is off to the slammer.

Biechele was sentenced to four years in prison Wednesday for his role in the deadly Rhode Island nightclub blaze that killed 100 people and injured hundreds more during a February 2003 performance by the heavy metal band.

Providence Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan imposed a sentence of 15 years, with four years served and 11 years of probation.

“There is nothing in the entire record of this case that the defendant intended to hurt anyone,” the judge said, adding that it was clear Biechele felt remorse for his crime.

Biechele was blamed for igniting a pyrotechnic display that set flammable foam lining the walls of the Station nightclub ablaze, turning the building into a fiery death trap. In February, he pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

The 29-year-old band manager wept in court Wednesday as he apologized to the families of victims, stating he would “never forget that night.”

“Since the fire, I wanted to tell the victims and their families how truly sorry I am for what happened that night and the part I had in it,” Biechele said. “I don’t know that I’ll ever forgive myself for what happened that night, so I can’t expect anyone else to.

“I can only pray that they understand that I would do anything to undo what happened that night and give them back their loved ones. I am so sorry for what I’ve done, and I don’t want to cause anyone more pain. I will never forget that night, and I will never forget the people that were hurt by it.”

Biechele’s sentence was issued at the close of a three-day hearing that gave the families of victims the opportunity to speak out about the loss of their loved ones.

“Do you know what it’s like to have two people you love so much to die in such a horrific manner that they can only be identified by dental records?” asked Paula McLaughlin, who lost her brother, Michael Hoogasia, 31, and his wife, Sandy, 27, to the fire.

“There is not a shred of forgiveness in my heart, and I suspect there never will be. I miss my son more than I ever could have imagined,” said Suzanne Fox, whose 33-year-old son Jeffrey Martin died in the blaze.

The final speaker Tuesday was Heidi Peralta, the girlfriend of Great White guitarist Ty Longley, 31, who was killed in the blaze. Identifying herself as Heidi Longley, she told the court that she was three months pregnant at the time of the fire.

“Ty was supposed to be my life partner,” she said. “My son has never known his father. We never got to go to ultrasounds together. We’ll never have family portraits. We’ll never have any of that, and it’s not fair.”

Prosecutors pushed for the maximum 10-year sentence, stating that a harsher penalty for Biechele would deter other nightclubs from using pyrotechnic displays.

“Why wait for an evolution? It happened here with disastrous consequences. Now is the time to send the wake-up call to the Industry,” prosecutor Randall White said.

Meanwhile, Biechele’s attorneys had argued that their client should be sentenced to community service, rather than jail time, as it was clear he had accepted responsibility for his actions.

“Dan Biechele is the only man in this tragedy to say, ‘I did something wrong,’ ” defense attorney Tom Briody said.

The owners of the Station, brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, were also indicted in December 2003 with 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter each for allegedly installing the flammable foam in the club in violation of state fire code.

The brothers have pleaded innocent to the charges. Jeffrey Derderian’s trial is scheduled to begin July 31; no trial date has been set for Michael Derderian.

Courtesy of