A look at Jeff Derderian
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- As a well-known TV reporter, Jeffrey Derderian was the public persona behind The Station nightclub. His in-your-face style of broadcast journalism won him awards and landed him big stories. It's what got the Providence reporter to Boston, and what made him so successful at promoting the club he owned with his brother.
But things changed for Derderian on Feb. 20, when a band's fireworks ignited foam on The Station nightclub's walls, killing 100 people and injuring some 200 others. "It was very difficult to express what I experienced at the club that evening, trying to get people out safely," Derderian said in a tearful statement he made to reporters two days after the fire. "Please know I tried as hard as I could. Many people didn't make it out and that is a horror that will haunt my family and I for the rest of our lives."
Since then, Derderian has retreated from the limelight. The 37-year-old father who had only recently returned to a TV job in Rhode Island shortly before the fire to be closer to his family, stopped going to work, and eventually quit his position at WPRI-TV.
He was indicted Tuesday on 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter -- two counts for each of the 100 people who died in the blaze.
Derderian and his brother, Michael, bought The Station in March 2000. For Jeffrey Derderian it was a side job, a way to make some extra money and build on his prominence in a state where his name was known.
The club, in blue-collar West Warwick, drew somewhat faded 1980s "hair bands," such as Great White, Warrant and Skid Row. It was a happening nightspot that attracted large crowds but still had a just-around-the-corner bar feel.
Those large crowds drew complaints from neighbors. To handle that, the brothers installed foam around the stage area as soundproofing. The foam ended up being highly flammable polyurethane which investigators say contributed to the rapid spread of the fire.
An attorney for the Derderians said the brothers didn't know the foam was flammable, but two years before the fire, Jeffrey Derderian did a news report for WHDH-TV in Boston about the dangers of mattresses, especially those that contain polyurethane foam.
After nearly three years of owning the club, Jeffrey Derderian "was looking to get out of the club business, because of the amount of attention it needed," said Lawrence Lepore, a friend and executive director of the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence.
Plans to sell the club were under way at the time of the fire. Derderian grew up in a middle-class neighborhood of Warwick. He attended Rhode Island College and worked at the college radio station. He also worked at a long-defunct discount airline.
After college, Derderian worked for different local radio stations. He jumped to television, spending several years at WLNE-TV, in Providence. In 1997, he became a reporter for WHDH-TV in the Boston market, a nearly three-hour roundtrip commute from his Cranston home.
He earned the nickname "Dick Tracy," from former Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci Jr., for his hard-nose style and trench-coat attire.
He left the Boston station after five years, and began working at WPRI-TV in Providence three days before the club fire. Derderian was at the club on Feb. 20, as was a WPRI cameraman who was gathering footage for a story about safety in public places.
After the fire, Derderian stopped going to work at WPRI but was on the station's payroll until his resignation in June. In September, Derderian began a new job "not in any way related to the media," said his attorney Jeffrey Pine.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)