The death toll has risen to 97 killed, and more than 160 injured when a fire broke out Thursday night at a club in Rhode Island where the rock band Great White was playing a show, according to MTV.com. By Monday, 55 of 97 victims had been identified, including the band's guitarist Ty Longley, Reuters reports.
The band's pyrotechnics ignited the ceiling to the nightclub The Station in West Warwick (about 15 miles southwest of Providence) shortly after they started playing at around 11 p.m. LAUNCH Music.com reports witnesses said the place went up in flames in a matter of two to three minutes after a spark or flame apparently ignited foam soundproofing or insulation in the ceiling and fire spread throughout the venue. Crews were still dousing the flames at 2 a.m.
"The place went up like the Fourth of July," Great White lead singer Jack Russell said to an area TV station. "Something went off with a lot of heat and caused some material, whatever was on the ceiling, or in the vicinity, to go off."
According to MTV.com, the crowd believed the wall of fire behind the stage was part of the pyrotechnic show, until thick black smoke engulfed the room and the lights went out, causing widespread panic and a rush to the exits.
Many of those dead were found near the front door, and dozens were unaccounted for in the early morning hours after the fire. At least 169 people escaped and were taken to local medical centers, many with severe burns, suffering from smoke inhalation or injured as a result of being trampled as they attempted to exit. Fourteen people are still in critical condition; doctors are saying those worst burned have a 50-60 percent survival chance.
According to witnesses, the club was not at its 300-person capacity, although exactly how many people were inside has yet to be determined.
MTV.com reports vocalist Russell told reporters on the scene that the club approved pyrotechnics, but one Station stage technician claimed to be unaware that Great White's set would feature fireworks and a fire official told CNN that the Station applied for a permit to use pyrotechnics, but it had not been granted. Sate and local police, fire marshals and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are investigating.
The incident comes on the heels of Monday's tragedy in Chicago, where 21 people died in a mad stampede to exit a nightclub.
Great White had its heyday in the late '80s hard rock scene and were best known for their Grammy-nominated hit "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" as well as hits "Rock Me" and "Face the Day."