Station Fire Memorial Group: Take Site By Eminent Domain
Hundreds show for eighth annual remembrance ceremony.
Chris Fontaine, president of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation, told hundreds of people gathered at the site of the 2003 blaze Sunday they'll ask West Warwick to take the land by eminent domain.
The tragedy began when pyrotechnics during a performance of the band Great White at the club set fire to sound proofing foam inside the building, according to a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) report. It claimed the lives of Coventry residents Christopher Arruda, Matthew P. Darby, Rachael Florio-DePietro, Daniel Frederickson, Eric J. Hyer, Kristin McQuarrie, Thomas Medeiros, Robert Reisner III, Tracey Romanoff, Bridget Sanetti and Jason Sylvester. Altogether, 100 people died in the fire, and many others were injured.
The 211 Cowesett Ave., West Warwick property was covered by a foot of hardened snow, through which home-made crosses poked. Each bore some colorful decoration left there by a caring hand: photos, garlands, balloons and flowers contrasted brightly against the bland winter landscape. In one corner, a narrow path was carved through the white, foot-deep crust to the memorial for Kelly Vieira of West Warwick. Vieira's daughter, Chandree' Kozlin, knelt there silently, long black hair across her face. Family and friends of others lost in the fire made their way down the path to Vieira's spot, where the path ended, then stepped up on the field of concrete-hard snow to make their way to the other memorials. Kozlin remained focused on her mother's spot as they passed.
Foundation members envision a much more elaborate memorial site.
The land was promised to the foundation in 2008, said Dave Kane, director of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation. He said the lawyer for Triton Realty, which owns the property, told him the land would be transferred to the foundation once all the settlements had been made to people injured and to the families of the 100 who died in the fire. Kane said that happened in July 2010 - a total of about $178 million paid by parties named in lawsuits following the tragedy, among them Clear Channel, Anheuser-Busch, the Town of West Warwick, the state of Rhode Island, and Triton Realty.
Kane said he waited until a few weeks after Christmas of 2010 to follow up on the pledge, but company representatives stopped answering his calls. The lack of communication has persisted since, he said. So, at the next West Warwick Town Council meeting in March, Kane said, "We're going to request that they take it by eminent domain."
After Fontaine's announcement and introduction, she introduced 100 seconds of silence. Rabbi George Astrachan followed with the invocation, after which an announcer recited the names of all 100 people who died in the fire. At the end of the list of names, bouquets of balloons were released into the cold air and were quickly carried away to the east.
Coventry residents Barbara and Mike Absi attended the memorial with their friends John and Sus Longiaru of Johnston, who lost their son, John, in the fire. "It's really sad that 100 people had to die here," Barbara said.