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Foam Cos. Offer $30M Over Nightclub Fire

Several foam manufacturers have agreed to pay $30 million to settle lawsuits brought by survivors and family members of those who died in a 2003 nightclub fire that killed 100 people, according to court papers filed Monday.

More than $100 million has now been offered through settlements to victims of the Feb. 20, 2003, fire at the Station nightclub in West Warwick from several companies, including Home Depot, Clear Channel Broadcasting and fireworks makers. The settlements must still be approved by the hundreds who have sued as well as the federal judge overseeing the case.

Investigators blame flammable, polyurethane egg-crate style foam on the walls and ceiling of the club for fueling the blaze. The fire began when a pyrotechnics display for the rock band Great White ignited foam placed around the stage for soundproofing.

The foam companies that agreed to settle the lawsuits include Carthage, Mo.-based Leggett & Platt Inc., Baltimore-based Wm. T. Burnett & Co., and several others.

It's still not clear which companies made the foam that was in the club. The foam was sold to club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian by Johnston-based American Foam Corp. American Foam bought their foam from a handful of manufacturers. Tests were ongoing to help pinpoint the manufacturers.

Lawyers for the victims and the companies did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The Derderians installed the foam after neighbors complained repeatedly about noise from the rock bands who performed at the roadside club. The Derderians have said they did not know it was flammable, and the town fire inspector never cited the club for the foam during repeated inspections of the building.

The fire was the fourth-deadliest nightclub blaze in U.S. history. Besides the 100 people killed, more than 200 others were injured.

A Duke University law professor has been appointed to meet with survivors and victims' relatives to calculate a formula for how much money each person would receive under the settlements, based on the injuries they suffered.

Former Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele, who lit the pyrotechnics, served 22 months in prison after pleading guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter. He was released in March. The Derderians pleaded no contest to the same charges, and Michael Derderian is currently serving a four-year sentence while his brother was spared jail time.