February 20, 2013

Station Night Club Fire: Tenth Anniversary and A Grotesque Footnote To It

Monique Chartier

Ten years ago occurred the horrific and completely avoidable fire at the Station Night Club in West Warwick.

Far from being held accountable, the person most responsible for the one hundred deaths and two hundred injuries, West Warwick Fire Inspector Dennis LaRocque, was actively shielded by then Attorney General Patrick Lynch for what can only have been vile political reasons. As though that were not outrageous enough, by the way, Mr. LaRocque was subsequently promoted - that's right, the FIRE INSPECTOR on whose watch occurred the fourth worst night club fire in US history was actually promoted - and then retired on a tax-free disability pension. (WPRI's well timed reminder yesterday of the exact nature of Mr. LaRocque's retirement is much appreciated.) Yes, indeed, thanks to Patrick Lynch, the Station Night Club Fire Inspector was held above justice and now is living large on the taxpayer dime.

It is important to note the method by which Patrick Lynch shielded the Fire Inspector and subverted justice. Firstly, he steered the Grand Jury away (scroll down the link) from indicting Fire Inspector Denis LaRocque and then, in a craven act of cowardice and dishonesty, hide behind "their" decision.

"That's what the grand jury returned," said AG Lynch to a query. "I can only do what they say."

Secondly, Attorney General Lynch allowed everyone else involved to plea out (in the process, hanging Judge Francis Darrigan out to dry in a most cowardly fashion.)

See, an indictment of Denis LaRocque or the absence of a plea deal for the others would have led to a trial. And above all, Attorney General Patrick Lynch could not risk a trial of anyone involved in fire because then the truth would have come out and that would have gravely endangered his political protegee, Denis LaRocque.

The result of Patrick Lynch's energetic legal maneuvering on behalf of the fire inspector, however, is that vital questions with regard to the Station Night Club fire remain unanswered:

> Why did Fire Inspector LaRocque fail to uphold Rhode Island's fire code by permitting the highly flammable foam to remain on the wall? Was he not trained properly (doubtful) or was he depravedly careless and indifferent?

> Did he see the foam or not? (Mr. LaRocque gave diametrically conflicting statements on that point to the Grand Jury.)

> Instead of shutting down the night club for this (deadly) code violation and others, why did Mr. LaRocque repeatedly twist and break Rhode Island's fire code so as to increase the "permitted" occupancy of the premises to patently unsafe levels?

Now, we learn from WPRI that Patrick Lynch, he who so successfully fended off truth and justice in the aftermath of the Station Night Club fire, will travel to Brazil to "assist" in the aftermath of the horrendous night club fire in Santa Maria on January 27.

This is surreal.

As Dave Kane correctly notes here and elsewhere, Patrick Lynch's sole expertise in the area of night club fires is obfuscating the truth, coddling the guilty and subverting justice.

Will he now be inflicted on another set of victims? It is to be fervently hoped that Brazilian authorities do not permit this to happen. Let them give him a paper-shuffling job in a back office for a couple of days, have him stand in front of some cameras (his favorite part of any job) and then pat him on the head and send him away. "Nice job, Mr. Lynch! Thanks for your help!"

One set of fire victims victimized again by Patrick Lynch is already too many. Let's not make it two.

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The most powerful political seat in the state of Rhode Island is that of House Speaker.
At the time of the Station fire Bill Murphy was House Speaker. Murphy resides in West Warwick.
A town employee indicted for 100 counts of manslaughter would not have been beneficial to the town of West Warwick in any way.

PS: Wonder how many calls Lynchie had to make to Brazil before he got his "invite". What a joke!

Posted by: Tim at February 20, 2013 8:38 AM

Although no fan of the Lynch family I would expect more from the bloggers at AR than statements such as,
"West Warwick Fire Inspector Dennis LaRocque, was actively shielded by then Attorney General Patrick Lynch for what can only have been vile political reasons."
You lay out absolutely nothing to back up this wild claim. The link to the brief Projo article, which can't be relied upon for its truthfulness, tells us nothing. There are countless reasons why a prosecutor would steer a grand jury away from a certain line of questioning. Most of them not nefarious.
The projo article doesn't even tell what questions the GJ was steered away from. Having testified before numerous GJ's I can say from experience that some of the dumbest things ever to be uttered in human history have occurred in these rooms. Most people are daydreaming or sleeping those awake believe they are in an episode of NCIS or Law & Order and ask some of the most off the wall questions I've ever heard.
I guess my point is this, I'm happy to see the end of the Lynch Family dynasty, I think the fire inspector was criminally negligent and should have been charged, but your post sucks and filled more with emotion than fact. Sort of what I would expect from a liberal blogger than someone here at AR.

Posted by: seirra1 at February 20, 2013 10:07 AM

While I agree with the overall point and sentiment of this post, some of the specific accusations in it go way overboard. Seirra is right that we don't have any direct evidence that Lynch purposely shielded criminal activity. The worst we can fairly accuse him of is being incompetent and overly political at times. I was also struck by the tone and rhetoric of this post as something more appropriate for RIFuture or similar leftist blogs. I do understand why the subject matter might have had that effect.

Posted by: Dan at February 20, 2013 11:59 AM

Dan: What does "overly political at times" mean? Because it sounds like a "nice" way to say exactly what Monica said--that he went out of his way to protect someone who, perhaps, should have faced the victims families and the law.

Posted by: Mike678 at February 20, 2013 2:04 PM

As Attorney General and a member of a powerful political family, Lynch was a central cog in the Democratic machine that has been operating and polluting Rhode Island's government for decades. In light of that reality, his decisions were undoubtedly influenced to an extent by political calculus rather than some principled moral stand. But there is a substantial difference between acknowledging those faults and accusing him of actively shielding criminal activity, distorting the truth, interfering with grand jury deliberations, and legal maneuvering to prevent a trial of a political protegee. As I said, I'm sympathetic to the central point of this post, but I think the degree of the rhetoric and accusations is way over the top - it reads more like one of Bob Plain's typical attack pieces than thought-provoking commentary.

Posted by: Dan at February 20, 2013 3:34 PM

It's refreshing to read straight talk from a straight talker. Rare quality these days.

Posted by: riborn at February 20, 2013 5:43 PM

In my opinion,based on personal experience,Frank Darrigan is a really decent,humane,compassionate person.

Posted by: helen at April 24, 2013 11:43 PM
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