Wed, Jan 28, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Thai singer charged over Bangkok club fire: police

AFP , BANGKOK

Thai police have charged the singer of a pop group called “Burn” with negligence for lighting fireworks that set a Bangkok club ablaze on New Year’s Day, killing 65 revelers, they said yesterday.

General Jongrak Jutanont, deputy national police chief, told reporters that they had completed their investigation into the Jan. 1 fire at the upscale Santika nightclub, where more than 200 people were injured.

“Eyewitnesses and evidence points to fireworks as the cause of the fire at Santika pub, because the fireworks hit the club ceiling and the fire broke out 30 seconds after the fireworks were lit,” Jongrak said.

He said police had arrested Saravuth Ariya, 28, the lead singer of Burn.

“He was seen carrying fireworks into the pub and lighting them during the countdown,” Jongrak said.

Jongrak said Saravuth denied the charges of negligence causing death, and bail had been set at 1 million baht (US$20,445).

Burn were playing on stage as partygoers brought in the new year, but less than an hour later the nightclub was filled with acrid smoke and flames as frantic revelers struggled to escape.

Emergency services have said the death toll was high because there were few exits and the windows on the upper floors had iron bars across them.

Some of the dead were crushed to death in the stampede to get out.

Saravuth is the sixth person to have been charged so far in connection with the fire. The other five are owners and managers of the club who face charges of negligence causing death and admitting under-age people.

Santika had been refused an operating license since 2004 because of safety concerns, but it remained open while appealing that decision, raising worries about standards across Thailand’s many bars and nightclubs.

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