Longley’s father recalls in private
Ty Longley’s father, Pat, didn’t attend the memorial services over the weekend in West Warwick, R.I., to mark the 10th anniversary of a nightclub fire that killed 100 people, including his son.
”To be honest, I contemplated going,” Longley said. ”I was checking on flights, but in talking with my son’s former girlfriend, she’s been up there a few times, and every time she’s been there, she’s run into people who were hostile toward the band members. I don’t want to go up there and have to deal with any animosity of any kind.”
Ty Longley, a 1990 Brookfield High School graduate, played guitar for the band Great White, and the pyrotechnics the band used on stage ignited the flammable packing foam the club used for soundproofing. That fire on Feb. 20, 2003, killed the 31-year-old musician and 99 concertgoers.
Instead, the father will mark the anniversary of the death the same way he has for the last decade.
”I ordered some roses today (Monday),” he said. ”I’ll take them to the grave at lunch time on Wednesday.”
Ty Longley’s girlfriend, Heidi Peralta, was pregnant at the time of his death and gave birth to their son in August 2003. Pat Longley said he doesn’t get to see his grandson as much as he would like, but he’s still in touch with Peralta as well as his son’s Great White bandmates.
Since the fire, Rhode Island has passed several laws changing fire codes for nightclubs and other public venues, including requiring sprinkler systems. Pat Longley is happy to see those changes, but he’s not sure they make much difference.
”I work in construction and sprinklers don’t save lives as much as they save buildings,” he said. ”It’s a big expense, and it’s the fumes that kill. By the time the place goes up in flames, the fumes may have already killed you. It’s the materials used (at the club) that were really bad.”
And a similar fire that killed 230 people last month at a nightclub in Brazil shows that the danger remains.
”That hit me right away when I saw that,” Longley said.
Plans are under way to build a permanent memorial at the site of the nightclub.
”I’ll sneak into town sometime on my own,” he said. ”I won’t tell the media or anyone I’m there.”
Even though the anniversary of the fire is Wednesday, survivors and relatives of the 100 who died gathered Sunday.
“It’s just very tough,” said Walter Castle Jr., 39, a survivor who suffered third-degree burns in his lungs, throat and bronchial tubes.
Angela Bogart, who was 19 when her mother, Jude Henault, was killed in the fire, said she has come to know and understand her mother more in the decade since she died, especially since she has become a mother herself.
“My mom lives in me in everything I do. I hear her voice wherever I go,” she said. “When I walk hand-in-hand with my little girl, my mother is holding her other hand.”
The ceremony also featured musical performances, a reading of the names of the people who died and 100 seconds of silence.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.