Band manager who lit deadly Rhode Island nightclub fire granted early release

Wednesday, September 19th 2007, 3:07 pm
By: News On 6

CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) _ The band manager whose pyrotechnics ignited a nightclub blaze that killed 100 people was granted parole Wednesday and will be released after serving less than half of his sentence.

Daniel Biechele, the former tour manager for the 1980s band Great White, is scheduled for released in March, the state parole board said. He has served 16 months of a four-year sentence levied after he pleaded guilty last year to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the 2003 fire.

Biechele, 30, lit pyrotechnics as a stage prop at the start of a Great White concert at The Station nightclub in West Warwick. Sparks from the explosives ignited flammable soundproofing foam around the stage, and the flames quickly spread throughout the one-story roadhouse as patrons tried to escape.

Besides the 100 killed, more than 200 others were injured.

In prison, Biechele has stayed out of trouble and worked as a bookkeeper for a nonprofit agency. The parole board considered such things as remorse, risk of reoffending and plans for life after prison in deciding who gets early release.

Biechele admitted lighting the devices without the required permit and tearfully apologized at his sentencing. He said he never intended for anyone to be harmed and wasn't sure he could ever forgive himself.

Victims' relatives had been mixed on Biechele's bid to leave prison early. At a hearing earlier this month, several family members praised Biechele for being the first person to accept responsibility for the fire and said he was just one of many individuals to blame.

But others said it would be an injustice for him to be released early.

Two other men, club owners and brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, also were convicted of 100 involuntary manslaughter for the fire, although they both pleaded no contest. Michael Derderian was sentenced in September 2006 to four years in prison and is not yet eligible for parole. Jeffrey Derderian was sentenced to 500 hours of community service and probation.