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Seller: Club bought foam that wasn't flame-resistant

Attorney denies that band's frontman would seek immunity

Fire engulfed The Station nightclub within minutes.
Fire engulfed The Station nightclub within minutes.

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Members of the band Great White are among witnesses to testify about the fire that killed 97 clubgoers. CNN's Bob Franken reports (February 26)
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Authorities made a public plea to the owners of the Rhode Island nightclub that caught fire, killing 97 people, and subpoenaed the band Great White. CNN's Brian Cabell reports (February 26)
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WEST WARWICK, Rhode Island (CNN) -- The owners of The Station nightclub, where a fire killed dozens of people last week, bought soundproofing foam that was not flame-resistant, a foam company said Friday.

In June 2000, club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian bought $575 worth of packing foam -- the kind typically used to pack gifts and line musical instrument cases, said Aram DerManouelian, president of American Foam Corp.

A similar amount of flame-resistant foam would have cost about $1,200, he said.

Flame-resistant foam would not have prevented the fire, but it might have slowed its spread, he said. The fire ran through the wood-framed former Italian restaurant within minutes after on-stage pyrotechnics ignited the sound-proofing foam.

"I don't know why they didn't buy it," DerManouelian said. "I guess they weren't thinking about fire."

Normal packing foam, though not flame-resistant, can withstand heat, DerManouelian said.

"You can put a flat iron on it and nothing would happen to it. You can't go put a torch to it or a flame to it, or it's going to burn. That's common sense, but it's not combustible. It's not a dangerous material to have in your house."

Club owners did not say why they needed the insulation. DerManouelian said he assumed it was intended to reduce noise at the concert club.

"We sell all kinds," he said. "People call us and tell us what they want and to see if we have it. We've had people buy it to put it in the back of a station wagon so their dog doesn't slide all over. We've had people use it to sit on after they've had an operation. You never know where it's going to go."

Survivor: Bouncers turned crowd away from exits

Meanwhile Friday, a survivor of the fire said club bouncers prevented concertgoers from using all the exits. John Gibbs, who suffered burns to his hands, said he started for a side door, but bouncers turned him away.

"I said, 'what about, you know, the door right there? You get people out quicker,'" Gibbs said. "He said, 'that's reserved for the band' and then they started getting physical and started pushing us quicker toward the windows and doors."

The question of whether the band Great White had permission to set off a pyrotechnic display remained unanswered Friday. Through attorneys, club owners have said they did not give permission. Bandmembers have claimed they had permission.

Two members of the band returned to West Warwick this week to testify before a grand jury looking into the fire.

An attorney for lead singer Jack Russell said reports that Russell would ask for immunity against prosecution before testifying to the grand jury were inaccurate.

Neil Philbin said his client has done everything the attorney general has requested.

"He has been fully cooperative; the discussions have been conducted with the utmost professionalism and in good faith, and Russell will continue to cooperate in any way he can," Philbin said.

Great White's second guitarist, Ty Longley, was among those killed in the fire.

The death toll from the fire climbed back to 97 Friday morning, when Linda Suffoletto was pronounced dead at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Suffoletto was among more than 180 people injured in the blaze, of whom more than 30 remained in critical condition Thursday.

Forensic teams and authorities had lowered the number of dead to 96 on Thursday, saying one person who had been reported missing was determined not to have been a victim of the fire.

All of those 96 died the night of the fire.


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