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Club Fire Tragedy
Civil attorney views evidence collected from nightclub fire
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CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) _ A fire science expert and an attorney putting together lawsuits stemming from The Station fire on Wednesday examined evidence collected from the nightclub�s ruins, in an effort to identify the companies that made the products involved in the blaze.

Attorney Mark Mandell and an expert worked Wednesday at the Cranston warehouse where 717 items collected by civil lawyers are being stored.

Mandell said they were reviewing the items and determining what should be tested first. Likely candidates include foam used as soundproofing in the club, wood paneling, plastic, ceiling tiles and carpet, Mandell said.

He and other attorneys representing victims� families and survivors of the West Warwick fire are trying to build a case against product manufacturers and others.

"What we�re looking for is, one, to identify the manufacturers. Two is to identify the chemical composition" of the products, Mandell said. That will help the attorneys determine whether the products were unsafe, and whether the manufacturers gave adequate warnings about potential hazards.

Among other things, Mandell said the testing will determine who manufactured the foam in the club. The club�s owners, Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, bought The Station in March 2000 and purchased a type of packaging foam to use as soundproofing in late June 2000, after West Warwick police warned them of neighbors� complaints about noise.

Investigators say the foam helped fuel the fire that killed 100 people and injured nearly 200 others. The Feb. 20 fire began when a band�s pyrotechnic display ignited the foam.

Mandell said attorneys have identified two companies as the likely manufacturers of the foam. Forensic testing should reveal its chemical signature, pinpointing the manufacturer, Mandell said.

He also said Wednesday that attorneys would look at the raw materials used to make the products found in the club. Manufacturers or suppliers of those components could be named as defendants in future lawsuits.

The testing will be funded by a group of lawyers who are collaborating on the nightclub fire cases. Members of a court-approved steering committee each kicked in $40,000 to fund the evidence preservation and testing, and they expect to spend more. They also anticipate other attorneys will buy in to the effort.

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