Sat, Aug 29, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Stage lights caused park fire: report

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Investigators examine the scene of the dust explosion that resulted in 11 deaths and about 500 injured at the Formosa Fun Coast water park in New Taipei City in an undated photograph. A report by the New Taipei City Fire Department found the cause of the blast to be “Beam 200” lights placed in the front of the stage.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

The fire that turned a June 27 concert at the Formosa Fun Coast (八仙海岸) water park into the nation’s deadliest amusement park disaster was caused by colored cornstarch being ignited by stage lights, an official report said this week.

The cornstarch that had been sprayed over hundreds of partygoers at a Color Play Asia event exploded when it came into contact with the lights, whose surface temperatures reached more than 400°C, the report by the New Taipei City Fire Department said.

In the report, a special investigation taskforce said a careful assessment of the evidence and repeated experiments had shown that the heat given off by 200-watt incandescent bulbs in a row of portable “Beam 200” moving-head stage lights ignited the cornstarch, sparking the deadly blaze.

The lights had been placed on the right-hand side of the stage near the front.

The taskforce, which included fire department officials and forensic scientists from the Criminal Investigation Bureau, concluded that the staff working the Color Play Asia event had created a dense aerial concentration of colored cornstarch, using air blowers and compressed gas canisters, of more than 45g/m3.

The taskforce’s experiments discovered that running the “Beam 200” lights for several hours raises their interior heat to 1,000°C, while their surface temperature reached more than 400°C.

The colored cornstarch used at the event burns at 430°C, the taskforce said.

Enough of the powder came into contact with the heated lights that it ignited, while the airflow allowed the flame to billow, making it appear as if there had been a massive explosion, the report said.

The taskforce said it had initially focused on three possible causes for the fire: electrostatic, an open fire source such as a cigarette or lighter, or heat from electrical devices.

Investigators said they conducted a number of experiments to eliminate the possibility that a burning cigarette or lighter flame could have sparked the fire, with neither able to reach a high enough temperature to ignite cornstarch.

Meteorological data from the day showed that humidity levels were high enough to discount electrostatic charges as a cause, they said.

As part of their investigation, the taskforce summoned the supplier of the “Beam 200” lights, the technical crew and other workers at the event for questioning to determine the electrical circuit layout and operation of the stage lights.

A total of 508 people were injured in the fire, 11 of whom have since died. As of yesterday, 208 were still hospitalized, 42 of whom were listed in critical condition and 78 in intensive care.

Three defendants have been released on bail as prosecutors investigate them on charges of offences against public safety and negligence causing deaths.

Six others are being investigated, including the chairman and the president of the water park.

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