After sifting through the conflicting versions of what happened, the grand jury will decide whether anyone should be held responsible for the fire that took 97 lives in West Warwick.
Their work began behind closed doors Wednesday, the same day weeping family members and friends began burying their loved ones. Most of the grand jury session was devoted to preliminary talks between prosecutors and lawyers for the band Great White, according to two sources close to the case who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Two members of the heavy metal group went to the East Greenwich center where the panel is meeting but did not testify Wednesday. The sources told The Associated Press the musicians were expected to be back before the panel as soon as Thursday.
After the proceedings, lead singer Jack Russell told WHJJ-AM radio the fire has been "the most horrible experience" of his life. Guitarist Mark Kendall said the tragedy has devastated the band members: "The loss of all the people, I mean, it's shocking, it numbs you."
The band has said it received approval to use special effects, but the two brothers who own the club have denied they gave permission.
Legal experts and fire investigators said club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, along with band members, could be indicted on such state charges as involuntary manslaughter or second-degree murder.
Edward C. Roy Jr., former president of the Rhode Island Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said he would advise both the club owners and the band members to invoke their Fifth Amendment right to refuse to testify.
"It's such a catastrophic loss of life. Realistically, with 97 deaths, no lawyer is going let a client talk to law enforcement," Roy said.
All but four of the 97 bodies pulled from the nightclub's rubble have been identified. Gov. Don Carcieri said he's asked families for any personal items that could provide DNA for medical examiners.
About 60 people remained hospitalized Wednesday, including 36 in critical condition.
Among those who died was 18-year-old Nicholas O'Neill of Pawtucket, who played guitar in a band that included two of his brothers, and wrote many of the songs. At a service, his father, David Kane, joked: "When I saw all the people here, the huge crowd, I heard Nicky whispering to me, 'We should charge a cover."'
Four large wreaths of red, yellow and white flowers filled the altar of the wood-paneled sanctuary of St. Jude's Church in Lincoln. The Rev. Bernard Lavin said Nicholas always had a joke and "was known for his childlike qualities — for getting everyone else in trouble except himself."
"People are sure to ask, 'Where's your God?' That's a fair question," Lavin told the congregation. "Quite frankly, I don't have an answer for it."
The Derderians were in the process of selling the nightclub when the fire broke out; just hours before, two men, Michael O'Connor and Daniel Gormley, filed papers with the state forming a company to run it. According to the town clerk, the Derderians were scheduled to come in the following day to begin transferring the liquor license.
The Station was also caught up in the contentious divorce of Michael Derderian, whose finances were becoming increasingly precarious, according to court records. Divorce records show Heather Derderian tried to force her husband to sell the club last year; the records also show his mounting debts, including $28,000 owed to the Internal Revenue Service.
Jeffrey Pine, an attorney for Jeffrey Derderian, said there was no indication the brothers' finances were a focus of the criminal investigation. Michael Derderian's divorce became final Wednesday.
But the nightclub's soundproofing is part of the probe. Authorities are trying to determine whether the club used an inexpensive and highly flammable brand that shouldn't have been installed. The governor said there are conflicting reports about whether the Derderians knew what kind of insulation was used.
Pine said materials dealing with whether the band had permission to use the pyrotechnics had been given to the attorney general's office. "I believe some of the documents corroborate that fact the permission was not given," he said.