WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) - The fire inspector who failed to cite the owners of the Station Nightclub for highly flammable foam covering much of the interior of the club is collecting a tax-free disability pension worth more than $4,000 a month, according to town records.
Records show Denis Larocque inspected the Station Nightclub at least three times prior to the Feb. 20, 2003 blaze that killed 100 people and injured hundreds more. He was never charged criminally by the Attorney General's office but has been a target of anger by many survivors and family members of those lost in the fire.
For more up-to-date coverage of Station Fire: Ten Years Later, be sure to watch WPRI 12 Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Larocque is still living in West Warwick and owns several apartments, according to records from the tax assessor's office. He did not return calls to WPRI 12 for this report.
Larocque was elevated to Battalion Chief two years after the fire. He then retired on Feb. 3, 2008 after collecting 18 months salary without working because of an undisclosed injury. The town automatically awarded him an accidental disability pension and records show he collects $4,360.40 a month tax free.
In an inspection report of the Station Nightclub on Cowesett Avenue three months prior to the fire, Larocque cited the owners – Michael and Jeffrey Derderian – for a stage door that swung inward, a faulty fire extinguisher and exit signs, a ceiling panel broken near an exit door and an open gasoline can in the basement. He did not write them up for foam that covered the ceiling and walls around the stage as well as the door that he noted in the inspection report.
A hand-written note on the inspection report reads "All OK" indicating the owners rectified the issues.
Larocque also faced scrutiny for increasing the capacity of the nightclub from 317 in 1999, to 404 just three months later.
Three people were charged and eventually pleaded guilty in the case: Great White band manager Dan Biechele, who launched the pyrotechnics that sparked the fire, as well as the Derderian brothers. Larocque was never charged prompting outrage from some of those affected by the fire.
Larocque has never spoken publicly about the fire but his grand jury testimony - given four months after the fire - was released to the public at the conclusion of the investigation by the-Attorney General Patrick Lynch.
According to transcripts, Larocque said he didn't notice the foam because he was focused on a door near the stage that opened inward.
"These are called fire safety inspections, what we do for liquor license renewals," Larocque told the grand jury. "These are not full building code-compliance inspections."
Former R.I. State Police Colonel Brendan Doherty was second in command at the time of the fire and coordinated efforts at the scene. He said the attorney general's office decided who would face criminal charges in the case, but he can understand while some survivors and family members of victims are frustrated that Larocque was not prosecuted.
"That's part of the sorrow and the anger and the anger the pain that these families went through," Doherty said. "I believe that the people culpable were held responsible, but I know the family members would like to see more."
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