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Editorial: Club tragedies could have been prevented

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Twenty-one people died in a Chicago club on Feb. 17 during the early morning hours after the crowded club's patrons panicked after someone got sprayed with tear gas to break up a fight. There were reports that as many as 500 people were crammed into the second-story E2 nightclub.

A few days later, 97 people died in a Rhode Island club after a band's pyrotechnics show caused a fire.

Both are senseless tragedies, but both instances of mayhem and death could have been avoided.

In both cases, the club owners are getting something of a pass from authorities. In the Chicago case, the fire commissioner said the club owner knew full well he was not to open the second-floor facility. A judge ordered the owners to close the second floor of the club last July because of safety violations.

In Rhode Island, the band acted foolishly, but surely someone watched as the band members set up the pyrotechnics. Surely someone knew the band -- which had used pyrotechnics at other clubs in the area -- was going to do what it did.

Now 118 people are dead. Someone should have to explain why. The investigation is continuing. Let's hope charges are filed soon against those who are responsible.


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