The Site of the Rhode Island Nightclub Fire Is a Pokéstop

Victims' families say it's disrespectful.

Photo via AP/Michelle R. Smith

Photo via AP/Michelle R. Smith

While reporting on the construction of a memorial at the site of The Station nightclub fire in Warwick, Rhode Island, the Associated Press learned of a different kind of site this week: the spot where the nightclub once stood is a Pokéstop in the popular mobile game Pokémon Go.

Upon learning of the virtual stop, families of the victims killed in the 2003 fire were infuriated. Chris Fonatine’s 22-year-old son, Mark, was among the 100 people killed in the fire.

“You’re kidding me,” said Fontaine. “It’s not a gaming kind of place.”

Fontaine said that the game describes the fire as killing 200 people, doubly inflating the actual number of victims. The stepfather of 27-year-old victim Bonnie Hamelin told the AP the use of a memorial site in the game is wrong.

A survivor of the fire also spoke up, calling the stop awful and disgusting.

“That is just so disrespectful,” said Victoria Potvin Eagan. “Graveyards and memorial sites especially are meant to honor and respect a certain person or event, not to make light of it.”

David Kane, father of 18-year-old Nicholas O’Neill, the fire’s youngest victim, was not upset by the tragedy’s appearance in the game. He said the Pokéstop creates awareness.

“If it draws people over there when we open, that would be great,” he said.

The nightclub fire was started in February 2003 when a pyrotechnics display set sound insulation ablaze inside the walls of The Station. The fire trapped the audience in the club, killing 100 people and injuring more than 200. The blaze was the second deadliest nightclub fire in New England following Boston’s 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire, which killed almost 500 people.

A memorial at The Station is under construction. Set to be open to the public in October, the memorial will contain monuments to honor each individual victim. Organizers told the AP they’ve raised $1.9 million out of the $2 million needed to establish the memorial and continue to maintain it.