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Chicago Bar Owner Charged with Arson

Chicago Bar Owner Charged with Arson


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Investigators say alleged hate crime was actually insurance fraud

The owner of Chicago's Bonsai Bar & Lounge has been charged with burning down his previous restaurant.

When the Velvet Rope, the only gay bar and restaurant in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, burned down last year, it was initially feared to be a hate crime. Owner Frank Elliott told the local news that he was shocked by the fire and horrified by the anti-gay slurs found spray painted inside the building, but police are now saying Elliott himself burned down the building for the insurance money.

"This is my life on the line. Everything I've done my entire life is now behind plywood," Elliott said at the time. "Why did they choose me? What did I do?"

After the fire, Elliott collected $150,000 of insurance money and opened Bonsai Bar & Lounge, a more upscale bar and restaurant in Chicago's Boystown neighborhood.

But according to the Chicago Phoenix, investigators determined that "Elliott was involved in planning, committing and the eventual intended insurance benefits of this incident.”

According to ABC News, prosecutors said yesterday that Elliott and a friend had purchased several bottles of Everclear from a local liquor store before spray painting gay slurs around the building, dousing the place in the alcohol, and lighting the bar on fire.

Elliott has been charged with two counts of arson and one count of insurance fraud. If convicted, he faces up to 14 years for the two counts of arson and 15 years for the insurance fraud.


Sweet potato season

You can make the same old sweet potato and marshmallow casserole for your family. Or you can try something new, says Geo Carter of Geo Soul Restaurant in Olympia Fields.

The chef suggests Sweet Potato Bread Pudding with Soco Raisins, Sweet Potato BBQ Chicken Fries or Traditional Sweet Potato Pie with Whipped Cream Cheese Topping. Try them at home or at Geo Soul Restaurant, 3462 Vollmer Road, Olympia Fields (708) 248-5502.

Sweet potatoes are tasty and delicious, Geo says. They are rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, beta carotene (a vitamin A equivalent nutrient), vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron and calcium. Sweet potato varieties with dark orange flesh have more beta carotene than those with light colored flesh, and their increased cultivation is being encouraged in Africa, where vitamin A deficiency is a serious health problem. Despite the name "sweet", it may be a beneficial food for diabetics, as preliminary studies on animals have revealed that it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and to lower insulin resistance Sweet potatoes are native to the tropical parts of South America, and were domesticated there at least 5000 years ago. Sweet potatoes are now cultivated throughout tropical and warm temperate regions wherever there is sufficient water to support their growth. In the U.S., North Carolina, the leading state in sweet potato production, providing more than a third of the crop. California, Louisiana, and Mississippi compete closely with each other in production.

Geo Carter, owner of Geo Soul Restaurant in Olympia Fields is a native of the South Suburbs of Chicago and a graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High School. Geo first started cooking when she was 6 years old, cooking on her won with a few how-to's and instructions on safety from her granddad and mother. When Geo needed recipes, she turned on the TV, not for Sesame Street, but for Julia Childs.

Geo was already making scrambled eggs, egg salad and deviled eggs, but Julia Childs took her to another level she says. The youngster began making rice pilaf and crepes with the help of her dad. He also taught her how to make cakes from a box. Geo was not satisfied with just a plain box cake, she started adding her own extras.

As an adult, Geo worked at the Four Seasons hotel in Las Colinas, Texas the experience also encouraged her interested in learning about food. She also sought the help of her grandmother who lived next door to the hotel. Her grandmother taught her about her food heritage and soul cuisine.

Geo's friends raved about her egg rolls, lasagna, tacos, gumbo, peach cobbler and banana pudding that she shared with guests in her home. Eventually, using her years of cooking, entertaining, bartending, customer service, and training at Rolex University, she opened Geo Soul.

"Geo" means "world soul," she explains. The inspiration for the restaurant was to deliver world cuisine.


Chicago Bar Owner Charged with Arson - Recipes

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St. Cloud bar owner now faces federal arson charges after fire that destroyed business

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — The owner of a St. Cloud bar that was destroyed by fire Feb. 17 now faces federal charges.

Andrew Charles Welsh, 41, of St. Joseph, Minn., was originally charged in Stearns County District Court with two felony counts: first-degree arson of a building using flammable material and first-degree arson of a dwelling,

He was arrested Friday, Dec. 11, by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents on a federal grand jury indictment alleging three counts: arson, use of fire to commit a federal felony and wire fraud.

The investigation into the fire at the Press Bar and Parlor uncovered that the fire started in the basement of the business and an ATF accelerant detection canine indicated the presence of potential accelerants, and an ATF forensic science laboratory later found the presence of an ignitable liquid from samples taken from Welsh’s desk, according to court documents.

ATF investigators and the St. Cloud Police Department executed a search warrant at Welsh’s Sauk Rapids, Minn., residence Feb. 29 and found more than $1,900 in varied denominations in Welsh’s truck along with a bottle of Ronsonol lighter fuel.

It is alleged in court documents that Welsh set the building on fire to fraudulently collect the insurance money.

The federal indictment said Walsh retained an insurance adjuster to assist in making an insurance claim on the building following its destruction in the fire. The claim was officially made on Feb. 26, 2020. At that time, Welsh signed and attached a document to the claim paperwork that said the loss of the Press Bar did not originate with Welsh. The court documents allege Welsh did know he was the cause of the fire, a violation of federal law.

According to a news release from the Stearns County Attorney's Office, the prosecution of the case against Welsh will now be turned over the United States Attorney's Office. The federal arson and wire fraud charges carry harsher penalties than the state charges, the release said.

The investigation involved multiple agencies including the ATF's National Response Team and members from the St. Paul Field Division, the Minnesota State Fire Marshal, the St. Cloud Fire Marshal, the St. Cloud Police Department, the Stearns County Sheriff's Office and the St. Cloud Fire Department.


Charges: Press Bar owner had motive, means to torch business

Facing significant debt, a divorce and declining business, the owner of the St. Cloud Press Bar and Parlor set the building on fire after closing for the night last month, according to charges filed in Stearns County.

Prosecutors in Stearns County charged Andy Welsh, a 40-year-old farmer and entrepreneur, with two counts of first-degree arson Tuesday morning. The charges allege Welsh purposely lit his basement desk using a flammable accelerant before leaving after 2 a.m. on Feb. 17. At the time, two tenants were living in apartments above the adjacent building.

Welsh had an insurance policy on the bar covering $1.6 million in building and equipment repairs, in addition to the opportunity to sell the downtown St. Cloud property it stood on, which prosecutors say gave him motive to light the fire.

Welsh bought the bar in 2016 with his then-wife for $850,000 in a contract-for-deed agreement. He still owed $550,000 when the bar burned to a total loss, according to charges.

Welsh also faced lawsuits from contractors who claimed he never paid them for their work. He's due in court later this month in a lawsuit brought by a construction company alleging he failed to pay more than $50,000 for a concrete project in 2018. He's also reached settlements with two co-ops and a DJ, all of whom sued him for not paying them in the past two years.

In Welch's divorce last year, a judge ordered him to sell the Press Bar and split the earnings with his wife by Jan. 20. He met with several real estate agents but never put the bar on the market, according to charges.

The 78-year-old business was in trouble. Employees told police that slow sales forced Welsh to lay off staff and stop serving tap beer.

An employee, who is not named in court documents, told investigators he opened the bar around 7 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 16, and arrived to find a door unlocked. The cash bag from the night before was short $200.

"Why is the bank so thin?" the worker texted Welsh.

"I grabbed the wrong one last night to put out," Welsh replied.

Welsh showed up later that night and stayed in the basement later than usual, the employee told police. It was a slow night and they closed up around 1:30 a.m. Welsh offered to take the night's cash down to the basement.

The employee left Welsh alone in the bar just after 2 a.m.

Within the hour, police called to say the building was on fire.

At 2:39 a.m., a woman who lived in an apartment above Cowboy Jack's, in the building adjacent to the Press Bar, awoke to the sound of a fire alarm. She and a neighbor saw smoke billowing from the building. They evacuated their apartments as firefighters pulled up on the street. It took about 40 crew members to extinguish the blaze, which burned into the morning.

"Andy the Press was on fire," the employee texted Welsh. "You need to get down here. It's getting worse. They said there is a hole burned through the first floor from the basement."

Welsh didn't respond, which the worker remarked to police he found "not normal."

The next day, the bar published a statement praising the firefighters' swift work. "We are thankful that no one was in the building at the time of the fire. We've gained many great employees, friends and memories there over the years. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers."

By the end of the week, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives called in a national team of specialty arson investigators to determine the fire's origin. After digging through the rubble, the agents concluded the burn patterns didn't match an appliance fire. An ATF dog sniffed out chemical accelerants on top of the basement desk, which tested positive for an "ignitable liquid," according to charges.

Surveillance footage showed Welsh leaving at 2:11 a.m., making him the last person in the building. On Saturday, police arrested Welsh at his home in Sauk Rapids, Minn., a sparsely lived-in residence with only a few items of men's clothing, an empty suitcase, towels and several rolls of toilet paper. They found nearly $2,000 in assorted paper-clipped bills in his truck and a bottle of Ronsonol lighter fuel, according to charges. They later discovered 31 boxes of financial documents.

"Investigators determined that the defendant had the means, possessed the motive, and had the sole opportunity to commit arson," the charges state. "The evidence establishes that the defendant intentionally used an accelerant on his office desk and ignited the vapors from the accelerant, causing the Press Bar fire. The resulting fire caused damage to the entire Press Bar property, the property connected to the Press Bar, and endangered the residential tenants on the other side of the appurtenant wall above Cowboy Jack's."

Welsh told officers he'd slept on his ex-wife's couch that night and put his phone on silent, which is why he didn't respond to texts.

"Andy is absolutely innocent. He has been arrested for a crime that he did not commit, and if charged by the government, he will be acquitted at trial," his attorney said. "He is a good man and a loving father, has no criminal history, and should have never been arrested."

Welsh appeared in court Tuesday morning, during which a judge set bail at $1.2 million without conditions or $200,000 with conditions.

Andy Mannix covers federal courts and law enforcement for the Star Tribune. He joined the paper in January 2016 and previously covered Minneapolis City Hall and statewide criminal justice/Department of Corrections.


Contents

Ignition Edit

The fire started just seconds into the band's opening song, their 1991 Billboard Mainstream Rock hit "Desert Moon", when pyrotechnics set off by tour manager Daniel Biechele ignited flammable acoustic foam on both sides and the top center of the drummer's alcove at the back of the stage. The pyrotechnics were gerbs, cylindrical devices that produce a controlled spray of sparks. Biechele used four gerbs set to spray sparks 15 feet (4.6 m) for fifteen seconds. Two gerbs were at 45-degree angles, with the middle two pointing straight up. The flanking gerbs became the principal cause of the fire.

The acoustic foam was installed in two layers, with highly flammable urethane foam above polyethylene foam, the latter being difficult to ignite but releasing much more heat once ignited by the less dense urethane. Burning polyurethane foam instantly develops opaque, dark smoke along with deadly carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide gas. Inhaling this smoke only 2–3 times would cause rapid loss of consciousness and, eventually, death by internal suffocation.

The flames were initially thought to be part of the act (the song's music video clearly shows flames blazing around the musicians) only as the fire reached the ceiling and smoke began to bank down did people realize it was uncontrolled. Twenty seconds after the pyrotechnics ended, the band stopped playing and lead vocalist Jack Russell calmly remarked into the microphone, "Wow. that's not good." In less than a minute, the entire stage was engulfed in flames, with most of the band members and entourage fleeing for the west exit by the stage.

Casualties Edit

By this time, the nightclub's fire alarm had activated, and although there were four possible exits, most people headed for the front door through which they had entered. The ensuing crowd crush in the narrow hallway leading to that exit quickly blocked the exit completely and resulted in numerous deaths and injuries among the patrons and staff. A total of 462 people were in attendance, even though the club's official licensed capacity was 404. [2] One hundred died, and about half of the survivors were injured, either from burns, smoke inhalation, thermal trauma, or trampling.

Among those who died in the fire were Great White's lead guitarist, Ty Longley, and the show's emcee, WHJY DJ Mike "The Doctor" Gonsalves. There is reason to believe that Longley and Gonsalves tried to salvage equipment during the early stage of the fire and lost valuable time to escape before dense, toxic smoke made breathing near impossible at zero visibility. Longley is believed to have initially made it out of the building but then re-entered in an attempt to rescue his guitar. [3] Furthermore, a number of survivors later stated that a bouncer stopped people trying to escape via the stage exit, stating that the door was "for the band only." [4] [5]

Recording and account Edit

The fire, from its inception, was caught on videotape by cameraman Brian Butler for WPRI-TV of Providence, and the beginning of that tape was released to national news stations. Butler was there for a planned piece on nightclub safety being reported by Jeffrey A. Derderian, a WPRI news reporter who was also a part-owner of The Station. WPRI-TV would later be cited for conflict of interest in having a reporter do a report concerning his own property. [6] The report had been inspired by the E2 nightclub stampede in Chicago that had claimed twenty-one lives only three days earlier. At the scene of the fire, Butler gave this account of the tragedy: [7]

. It was that fast. As soon as the pyrotechnics stopped, the flame had started on the egg-crate backing behind the stage, and it just went up the ceiling. And people stood and watched it, and some people backed off. When I turned around, some people were already trying to leave, and others were just sitting there going, "Yeah, that's great!" And I remember that statement, because I was, like, this is not great. This is the time to leave.

At first, there was no panic. Everybody just kind of turned. Most people still just stood there. In the other rooms, the smoke hadn't gotten to them, the flame wasn't that bad, they didn't think anything of it. Well, I guess once we all started to turn toward the door, and we got bottle-necked into the front door, people just kept pushing, and eventually everyone popped out of the door, including myself.

That's when I turned back. I went around back. There was no one coming out the back door anymore. I kicked out a side window to try to get people out of there. One guy did crawl out. I went back around the front again, and that's when you saw people stacked on top of each other, trying to get out of the front door. And by then, the black smoke was pouring out over their heads.

I noticed when the pyro stopped, the flame had kept going on both sides. And then on one side, I noticed it come over the top, and that's when I said, "I have to leave." And I turned around, I said, "Get out, get out, get to the door, get to the door!" And people just stood there.

There was a table in the way at the door, and I pulled that out just to get it out of the way so people could get out easier. And I never expected it to take off as fast as it did. It just—it was so fast. It had to be two minutes tops before the whole place was black smoke.

In the days after the fire, there were considerable efforts to assign and avoid blame on the part of the band, the nightclub owners, the manufacturers and distributors of the foam material and pyrotechnics, and the concert promoters. Through attorneys, club owners said they did not give permission to the band to use pyrotechnics. Band members claimed they had permission.

A National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) investigation of the fire under the authority of the National Construction Safety Team Act, using computer simulations with FDS and a mockup of the stage area and dance floor, concluded that a fire sprinkler system would have contained the fire long enough to give everyone time to exit safely. [8] However, because of the building's age (built in 1946 [8] ) and size (4,484 square feet [417 m 2 ] [8] [note 1] ), many [ who? ] believed The Station to be exempt from sprinkler system requirements. In fact, the building had undergone an occupancy change when it was converted from a restaurant to a nightclub. This change dissolved its exemption from the law, a fact that West Warwick fire inspectors never noticed. On the night in question, The Station was legally required to have a sprinkler system but did not [10] outcry over the event has sparked calls for a national Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act, but those efforts have so far stalled [ when? ] . [11]

On December 9, 2003, brothers Jeffrey A. and Michael A. Derderian, the two owners of The Station nightclub, and Daniel M. Biechele, Great White's road manager at the time of the fire, were each charged with 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter—two per death, because they were indicted under two separate theories of the crime: criminal-negligence manslaughter (resulting from a legal act in which the accused ignores the risks to others and someone is killed) and misdemeanor manslaughter (resulting from a petty crime that causes a death). The brothers pleaded not guilty to the charges, while Biechele pleaded guilty. The Derderians also were fined $1.07 million for failing to carry workers' compensation insurance for their employees, four of whom died in the blaze.

The first criminal trial was against Great White's tour manager, Daniel Michael Biechele, 26, from Orlando, Florida. This trial was scheduled to start May 1, 2006, but Biechele, against his lawyers' advice, [12] pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter on February 7, 2006, in what he said was an effort to "bring peace, I want this to be over with." [12]

Sentencing and statement Edit

On May 10, 2006, State Prosecutor Randall White asked that Biechele be sentenced to ten years in prison, the maximum allowed under the plea bargain, citing the massive loss of life in the fire and the need to send a message. [12] Speaking to the public for the first time since the fire, Biechele appeared remorseful during his sentencing. Choking back tears, he made a statement to the court and to the families of the victims.

For three years, I've wanted to be able to speak to the people that were affected by this tragedy, but I know that there's nothing that I can say or do that will undo what happened that night.

Since the fire, I have wanted to tell the victims and their families how truly sorry I am for what happened that night and the part that I had in it. I never wanted anyone to be hurt in any way. I never imagined that anyone ever would be.

I know how this tragedy has devastated me, but I can only begin to understand what the people who lost loved ones have endured. I don't know that I'll ever forgive myself for what happened that night, so I can't expect anybody 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'm so sorry for what I have done, and I don't want to cause anyone any more pain.

I will never forget that night, and I will never forget the people that were hurt by it.

I am so sorry. [13]

Superior Court Judge Francis J. Darigan Jr. sentenced Biechele to fifteen years in prison, with four to serve and eleven years suspended, plus three years' probation, for his role in the fire. [14] Darigan remarked, "The greatest sentence that can be imposed on you has been imposed on you by yourself." Under this sentence, with good behavior, Biechele would be eligible for parole in September 2007. Judge Darigan deemed Biechele highly unlikely to re-offend, which was among the mitigating factors that led to his decision to impose this sentence.

The sentence drew mixed reactions in the courtroom. Many of the families believed that the punishment was just others had hoped for a more severe sentence. [15]

Support for parole and aftermath Edit

On September 4, 2007, some families of the fire's victims expressed their support for Biechele's parole. 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 twenty letters, the majority of which expressed their sympathy and support for Biechele, some going as far as to describe him as a "scapegoat" with limited responsibility. Parole board chairwoman Lisa Holley told journalists of her surprise at the forgiving attitude 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."

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," the letter said. Others pointed out that Biechele had sent handwritten letters to the families of each of the 100 victims and that he had a work release position in a local charity.

On September 19, 2007, the Rhode Island Parole Board announced that Biechele would be released in March 2008. Biechele was released from prison on March 19, 2008. As reported by the Associated Press, he did not answer any questions and was quickly whisked away in a waiting car. Biechele's parole and probation expired in March 2011.

As of 2013 [update] , Biechele lived in Florida with his wife and two children. [16]

Following Biechele's trial, The Station's owners, Michael and Jeffrey Derderian, were scheduled to receive separate trials. However, on September 21, 2006, Judge Darigan announced that the brothers had changed their pleas from "not guilty" to "no contest," thereby avoiding a trial. [17] Michael Derderian received fifteen years in prison, with four to serve and eleven years suspended, plus three years' probation—the same sentence as Biechele. Jeffrey Derderian received a ten-year suspended sentence, three years' probation, and 500 hours of community service.

In a letter to the victims' families, [18] Judge Darigan said that a trial "would only serve to further traumatize and victimize not only the loved ones of the deceased and the survivors of this fire, but the general public as well." He added that the difference in the brothers' sentences reflected their respective involvement with the purchase and installation of the flammable foam. Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch objected strenuously to the plea bargain, saying that both brothers should have received jail time and that Michael Derderian should have received more time than Biechele. [17]

In January 2008, the Parole Board decided to grant Michael Derderian an early release he was scheduled to be released from prison in September 2009, but was granted his release in June 2009 for good behavior. [19]

As of September 2008, at least $115 million in settlement agreements had been paid, or offered, to the victims or their families by various defendants:

  • In September 2008, The Jack Russell Tour Group Inc. offered $1 million in a settlement to survivors and victims' relatives, [20] the maximum allowed under the band's insurance plan. [21]
  • Club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian have offered to settle for $813,000, [22] which is to be covered by their insurance plan due to the pair having bankruptcy protection from lawsuits. [22]
  • The State of Rhode Island and the town of West Warwick agreed to pay $10 million as settlement. [23] agreed to pay $25 million as settlement. Sealed Air made flammable packaging foam that was improperly installed in the club, which required acoustic foam designed for this purpose. [24]
  • In February 2008, Providence television station WPRI-TV and their then-owners LIN TV made an out-of-court settlement of $30 million as a result of the claim that their video journalist was said to be obstructing escape and not sufficiently helping people exit. [25]
  • In March 2008, JBL Speakers settled out of court for $815,000. JBL was accused of using flammable foam inside their speakers. The company denied any wrongdoing. [26] has offered $5 million. [27] McLaughlin & Moran, Anheuser-Busch's distributor, has offered $16 million. [27] and Polar Industries, Inc. (a Connecticut-based insulation company) made a settlement offer of $5 million. [28]
  • Providence radio station WHJY-FM promoted the show, which was emcee'd by its DJ, Mike "The Doctor" Gonsalves (who was one of the casualties that night). Clear Channel Broadcasting, WHJY's parent company, paid a settlement of $22 million in February 2008. [29]
  • American Foam Corporation who sold the insulation to The Station nightclub agreed in 2008 to pay $6.3 million to settle lawsuits relating to the fire. [30]

Thousands of mourners attended a memorial service at St. Gregory the Great Church in Warwick on February 24, 2003, to remember those lost in the fire.

Five months after the fire, Great White started a benefit tour, saying a prayer at the beginning of each concert for the friends and families affected by the incident and giving a portion of the proceeds to the Station Family Fund. In 2003, and again in 2005, the band stated they had not performed the song "Desert Moon" since the tragedy. "I don't think I could ever sing that song again," said Russell, [31] while guitarist Mark Kendall stated, "We haven't played that song. Things that bring back memories of that night we try to stay away from. And that song reminds us of that night. We haven't played it since then and probably never will." [32] By August 18, 2007, however, the band had resumed performing the song. [33]

Two years to the day after the fire, band members Russell and Kendall, along with Great White's attorney, Ed McPherson, appeared on CNN's Larry King Live with three survivors of the fire and the father of Longley, to discuss how their lives had changed since the incident. [34]

On January 16, 2013, Jack Russell scheduled a benefit show in February 2013, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the fire, and announced that all proceeds would go towards the Station Fire Memorial Foundation. Upon hearing of the event, the Foundation asked that its name be removed, stating the animosity still felt by many of the survivors and surviving families. [35] Jack Russell's management has stated that the show would be renamed and that the proceeds would go to another charity.

The site of the fire was cleared, and a multitude of crosses were placed as memorials, left by loved ones of the deceased. On May 20, 2003, nondenominational services began to be held at the site of the fire for a number of months. Access remains open to the public, and memorial services are held each February 20. [36]

A permanent memorial at the site of the fire has been erected and named the Station Fire Memorial Park. [37] In August 2016, the site was reported to have been being used as a PokeStop in Pokémon Go, to uproar from victims' families. [38]

In June 2003, the Station Fire Memorial Foundation (SFMF) was formed with the purpose of purchasing the property, to build and maintain a memorial. [39] In September 2012, the owner of the land, Ray Villanova, donated the site to the SFMF. [40] By April 2016, $1.65 million of the $2 million fundraising goal had been achieved and construction of the Station Fire Memorial Park had commenced. [41] [42] The memorial dedication ceremony took place on May 21, 2017. [43]

Other nightclub fires Edit

There have been other nightclub fires in the United States that also resulted in significant loss of life. The November 28, 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston caused 492 deaths. The April 23, 1940 Rhythm Night Club Fire in Natchez, Mississippi, claimed the lives of approximately 209 people. The May 28, 1977 Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in Southgate, Kentucky, claimed 165 lives. The December 2, 2016 Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland, California claimed 36 lives. The March 25, 1990 Happy Land Fire in the Bronx, New York City, claimed 87 lives. The deadliest single-building fire in United States history was the December 30, 1903 Iroquois Theatre fire in Chicago, with at least 602 deaths.

Great White Edit

Following the fire, Great White split into two separate groups, one led by Russell and the other by Kendall. [44] Neither version of the band performed in any of the six New England states for over a decade. [44] Russell's group made its first New England appearance in twelve years at a harvest festival in Mechanic Falls, Maine in August 2015. [44]

Popular culture Edit

The season 1 episode of Cold Case "Disco inferno" was based on this incident. The season 14 episode of Law & Order "Blaze" was also closely based on the incident. The Season 14 episode of CSI:Crime Scene Investigation "Torch Song" was also very closely based on the incident, including having the band's guitarist return to the burning club to try to salvage some of the band's equipment from the fire, including the guitarist's guitar resulting in his death. The season 1 episode "Tinder Box" of CSI:Miami featured a DJ's pyrotechnics setting fire to a nightclub.

Scott James's nonfiction book Trial by Fire (2020) describes the fire based on interviews and investigation. [45]

Safety measures Edit

Following the tragedy, Governor Donald Carcieri declared a moratorium on pyrotechnic displays at venues that hold fewer than 300 people.

Numerous violations of existing codes contributed to the calamity, triggering an immediate effort to strengthen fire code protections. Within weeks of the disaster, an emergency meeting was called for the National Fire Protection Association committee handling code for "assembly occupancies". Based upon its work, Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) were issued for the national standard "Life Safety Code" (NFPA 101), in July 2003. The TIAs required automatic fire sprinklers in all existing nightclubs and similar locations that accommodate more than 100 occupants, and all new locations in the same categories. The TIAs also required additional crowd manager personnel, among other things. These TIAs were subsequently incorporated into the 2006 edition of NFPA 101, along with additional exit requirements for new nightclub occupancies. [46] It is left for each state or local jurisdiction to legally enact and enforce the current code changes.

As a result of this and other similar incidents, fire chiefs, fire marshals and inspectors require trained crowd managers to comply with the International Fire Code, NFPA-101 Life Safety Code, NFPA-1 Fire Code and many local ordinances that address safety in public-assembly occupancies. However, fire professionals have few choices about what training should be provided and training programs are continually updated to incorporate new technologies as well as lessons learned from actual fire experiences. [47]


6 The Myojo 56 Fire


One of the most prominent neighborhoods in Tokyo is Kabuchiko, which is known as the city&rsquos red-light district and is home to prostitution, gambling, and the yakuza. Myojo 56, a four-story building in Kabuchiko which was rumored to be a haven for illegal gambling activity, became the site of a horrific tragedy in the early morning hours of September 1, 2001. Sometime after 1:00 AM, there was a sudden explosion and flames instantly engulfed the two top floors of the building. In the end, 44 people would lose their lives.

Right from the outset, there were rumors that the explosion was somehow connected to organized crime. Myojo 56&rsquos mah-jongg parlor was believed to be an illegal gambling den and had been completely destroyed by the fire. However, the authorities surprised everyone by announcing that arson was likely not the cause of the blaze. Instead, the primary focus was on the criminal negligence of the building&rsquos owners.

In February 2003, six members of the Myojo Kosan Group were charged with violations of Japan&rsquos Fire Services Law. It was discovered that Myojo 56 had numerous fire-code violations, as the fire doors were not properly maintained and the emergency stairwells were cluttered with items which might have prevented some of the victims from escaping. The case dragged through the courts for years and was not resolved until July 2008, when five of the six defendants were convicted of negligence and given suspended prison sentences. Literally one day after the ruling, the authorities suddenly reversed their original position and announced that arson was the cause of the fire after all. They claimed that an unidentified injured man seen near the building on the night of the fire was the prime suspect, but despite the renewed interest in the case, the Myojo 56 fire remains unsolved.


Owner of St. Cloud’s Press Bar arrested pending arson charges in fire that demolished building

The Press Bar fire in St. Cloud was intentionally set, federal officials concluded Saturday.

The owner, Andy Welsh of St. Joseph, Minn., was arrested pending arson-related charges and booked in the Stearns County jail.

The determination was made collectively by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ National Response Team, the St. Cloud Fire Department, St. Cloud Police Department and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office.

The Press Bar and Parlor is owned by Andrew and Jessie Welsh. They bought the tavern on 502 St. Germain Street after longtime owners Jim Gillespie and Grey Payne sold it in 2016, according to the St. Cloud Times.

Authorities responded to the fire about 2:40 a.m Feb. 17. The building burned for 12 hours and was totally demolished.

That same day, the Press Bar posted on its Facebook page a message of thanks for first responders, adding, “We are thankful that no one was in the building at the time of the fire…We appreciate your thoughts and prayers.”


Owner Of St. Cloud’s Press Bar Faces Federal Arson Counts

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — The owner of a historic St. Cloud bar has been indicted on federal arson and wire fraud charges for allegedly setting fire to the business and submitting a fraudulent insurance claim, prosecutors announced Friday.

Andrew Welsh, 41, of St. Joseph, was arrested Friday by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He is accused of burning down the Press Bar and Parlor, a century-old establishment in downtown St. Cloud. Damage was estimated at $1 million.

A federal indictment unsealed Friday charges Welsh with one count of arson, one count of using fire to commit a federal felony and one count of wire fraud. Welsh was initially charged in state court, but the Stearns County Attorney’s Office says the case will now be prosecuted in federal court, where Welsh could face stiffer penalties.

&ldquoWe are going to prove that Andrew Welsh is innocent,&rdquo said his attorney, Andy Birrell. &ldquoIt’s a case about science, and the science is on our side.&rdquo

According to the federal indictment, Welsh, who had a $1.35 million insurance policy on the Press Bar and Parlor, used an ignitable liquid to set fire to the bar’s basement on Feb. 17. The fire spread and destroyed the building. Days later, Welsh allegedly hired a public insurance adjuster, who claimed Welsh was entitled to more than $1.4 million in property damage and other losses.

(© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


LaGrange bar owner charged with rape

The owner of a downtown LaGrange bar is in custody on a charge of rape, according to police.

Joshua Overkamp, who operates the 86′D bar on Main Street, turned himself in at the LaGrange Police Department on Monday, according to a news release.

Officers started investigating Overkamp after they responded to a report of rape around 3:30 a.m. July 12, police said in the release. The incident took place at 86′D, LaGrange police spokesman Robert Kirby told AJC.com. A warrant was obtained for Overkamp’s arrest Thursday and he surrendered this week.

Overkamp, 39, of LaGrange, is being held in the Troup County Jail without bond, according to records.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact police at 706-883-2603 or Troup County Crime Stoppers at 706-812-1000.


Watch the video: Φωτιά στη Νέα Μάκρη Εξετάζεται το ενδεχόμενο εμπρησμού (September 2022).


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