Club fire left Jack Russell with survivor's guilt

Great White singer Jack Russell has recalled the debilitating survivor’s guilt he experienced after the 2003 nightclub fire in Rhode Island that killed 100 people.

Great White’s pyrotechnic display sparked the blaze at The Station club in Warwick. It raged out of control when non-approved soundproofing equipment went up in flames in the overcrowded venue.

This month, a deadly fire in a Romanian rock club resulted in the deaths of 45 people, with many more in critical condition in hospital.

Russell plans to tell his story in an upcoming documentary on the 2003 blaze.

He tells 105.9 The Brew: “It’s a story of my life intertwined with the story of the fire. It’s really hard, but it’s gonna give me a chance to apologise and say how I feel about it. I never had the chance to say, ‘I’m sorry.’”

The vocalist says he experienced months of horror in the wake of the tragedy.

He adds: “I was almost catatonic for three months. I couldn’t stop crying. It was horrible. I’ll never be over it and I don’t think I ever should. I think I owe it to my fans that lost their lives to never forget them.

“It was like the 911 of rock’n’roll. I feel a guilt. I have this survivor’s guilt, why did I get to live when so many other people didn’t? I feel guilty for people coming to see me play and losing their lives.”

White continues: “It’s really hard to deal with it. It was just a horrible accident. It was a lot of weird things that had to come into play to make that happen. The fire inspector didn’t do his inspection. Or he did his inspection, but he did a faulty inspection.

“He okayed the foam on the ceiling, which was mattress foam. And that’s not legal. The fire marshall didn’t do his job right, but you can’t indict a public official in the state of Rhode Island, so he didn’t get in any trouble.

“They had a back door where there was a double door. They had a lot of sound complaints, so during the inspection, they would take the second door off, so the push-to-exit door, in case of an emergency, that would open.

“But when they had concerts, they’d put the second door on, so when you push the emergency bar, the door wouldn’t open – it pulled inward instead of pushing outward. And how anybody would know that? It says, ‘Push to exit,’ so you’ve got 100 people in the hallway trying to push on this door, and it ain’t going nowhere.”

Twelve victims from the Bucharest fire have been flown to specialist burns units in the UK and Norway.

Stef wrote close to 5,000 stories during his time as assistant online news editor and later as online news editor between 2014-2016. An accomplished reporter and journalist, Stef has written extensively for a number of UK newspapers and also played bass with UK rock favourites Logan. His favourite bands are Pixies and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Stef left the world of rock'n'roll news behind when he moved to his beloved Canada in 2016, but he started on his next 5000 stories in 2022.