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Great White - Station Fire Update: Families of Victims Get Letters of Apology

By Newsferatu, Writer
Sunday, June 4, 2006 @ 4:01 AM


"Unless he can say in the lett

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From the Associated Press:

The letter arrived this week at Dave Kane's home, a single page of unadorned cursive script tucked inside a small envelope. He opened the letter and called his wife on the phone. Then he struggled through tears to read it to her.

"To Nick O'Neill's family and friends," the letter begins. "Please allow me to start by apologizing for the part I played in Nick's tragic death and for taking so long to convey this apology to you."

The author is Daniel Biechele, the former rock band tour manager whose pyrotechnics display at a concert at The Station nightclub three years ago started a fire that killed Kane's 18-year-old son, Nicholas O'Neill, and 99 others.

Biechele, who tearfully apologized in a packed courtroom last month before being sentenced to four years in prison, wrote personal letters to the families of all 100 people killed by the fire. The letters were written before the sentencing and are now being distributed by the state probation department to the families who want them.

Some who have received the letters say they are satisfied with Biechele's words, which have a remorseful tone and show that he accepts responsibility. In at least some notes, Biechele acknowledges that forgiveness may be impossible and that the pain of losing a child is unthinkable.

"I just believe it was sincere," Kane said Saturday in an interview at his home. "It was just real. It wasn't, 'I'll write this letter and the judge will take five years off my sentence."'

But others don't want the letters and think there is nothing Biechele could write that could soothe them.

"I have a lot of issues with Daniel Biechele," said Claire Bruyere, whose 27-year-old daughter, Bonnie Hamelin, died in the fire. "Unless he can say in the letter that he didn't kill my daughter, then I have no urge to hear what he says."

Though Bruyere did not want the letter, her relatives said she might want to read it one day, so she decided to have the note sent to her sister. It was not immediately clear Saturday how many family members had requested the letters and how many did not want them. Unwanted letters will be returned to Biechele's lawyer. Biechele was tour manager for the band Great White when he set off pyrotechnics during a concert at the West Warwick club on Feb. 20, 2003. Sparks from the pyrotechnics ignited flammable soundproofing foam around the stage, spreading flames through the club. Biechele pleaded guilty in February to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian are awaiting trial.

In a letter sent to the family of fire victim Tammy Mattera-Housa, 29, Biechele wrote that he would be "haunted" by his role in the fire "until the day that I die."

"The pain and suffering that so many endured is absolutely unthinkable," Biechele wrote. "If I had any idea that anyone would be harmed in the least I would never have used the pyrotechnics. I never wanted to place anyone in danger."

Leland Hoisington, whose daughter, Abbie, 28, died in the fire, said he was moved by Biechele's letter and was considering writing back to him. He said he felt sorry for Biechele and considered him a victim and the "only real man in this whole mess."

"What he had to say to us, he certainly didn't have to say it," said Hoisington, who declined to share what Biechele had written. Kane said he still struggles to read the letter. Certain sentences particularly move him, such as, "No parent should ever have to suffer the agony of having their child pass away before they do, and yet it has happened here, partly through my own fault."

"The words about losing your child and how horrible it is kind of remind you of how horrible it is," Kane said.

Biechele told Kane in the letter that he didn't feel he could ask for forgiveness. But at the sentencing hearing last month, Kane told Biechele his teenage son would have wanted his family to accept Biechele's apology. Biechele wept as Kane spoke.

Kane and his wife, Joanne O'Neill, think Biechele might have met their son, a musician, since he was invited to hang out with the band on the day of the show. O'Neill said she called her son and could sense the excitement in his voice.

"You're going to have a lot of stories to tell," she recalled telling him. That was their last conversation.


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