Band manager Daniel Biechele shown parole support by families of victims of the Station nightclub fire

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Families of victims of the Station nightclub fire, which killed 100 people on Rhode Island in 2003, have expressed their support for the parole of Great White band manager Daniel Biechele, currently 16 months into a four year jail sentence for his role in the disaster.

Biechele admitted to illegally setting off the pyrotechnics that started the fire, and broke down as he told victims' relatives that he couldn't expect their forgiveness. He has been jailed since May 2006.

The pyrotechnics ignited highly flammable soundproofing foam in the nightclub, and the ensuing rapid conflagration trapped people in the building. Many families have expressed their belief that venue owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian maintained the building in an unsafe state. Michael received another four-year sentence but is not yet eligible for parole, while Jeffrey avoided prison time.

Leland Hoisington, whose 28-year-old daughter Abbie was killed in the fire, told reporters "I think they should not even bother with a hearing _ just let Biechele out... I just don't find him as guilty of anything." The state parole board received approximately 20 letters, the majority of which expressed their sympathy and support for Daniel, some going as far as describing him as a "scapegoat" of limited responsibility.

Board chairwoman Lisa Holley told journalists of her surprise at the forgiving of the families, saying "I think the most overwhelming part of it for me was the depth of forgiveness of many of these families that have sustained such a loss,".

A letter written by Dave Kane and Joanne O'Neill, parents of youngest victim Nicholas O'Neill, released their letter to the board to reporters. "In the period following this tragedy, it was Mr. Biechele, alone, who stood up and admitted responsibility for his part in this horrible event... "He apologized to the families of the victims and made no attempt to mitigate his guilt," it said.

Others pointed out that he sent a handwritten letter to the families of each of the hundred victims and that he has a work release position in a local charity.