BANGKOK (AP) — The owner of a music bar in eastern Thailand last week died in a fire that killed 15 people and injured three more, and was taken to court Monday to hear criminal charges against him.
Pongsiri Panprasong, owner of the Mountain B bar in the Sattahip district of Chonburi province, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Bangkok, turned himself in late Saturday. Police charged the 27-year-old with negligent causing death and operating an entertainment venue without a permit. He could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 200,000 baht ($5,580).
Live bands regularly perform on the pub’s stage, including when the fire broke out early on Friday morning on the ceiling above them. Police said the venue was only permitted to operate as a restaurant.
The scene of the fire, which broke out in the early hours of Friday, remained under lockdown on Monday as forensic medical examiners and building inspectors worked to determine the cause of the fire and whether the bar met building standards.
“I’m sorry. I want to say sorry to the victim’s family,” Pongsiri told reporters from the window of the back seat of a police car in a Pattaya courthouse. Pongsiri, whose face was covered by a mask, hat and towel, said he would compensate the victims.
Many of those injured in the fire were badly burned and in critical condition. Thirteen people died at the scene, another died in hospital on Friday, and a 15th victim, Thanakrit Neenoi, died on Saturday. His sister told local media that Thanakrit went to a bar with his wife and friends to celebrate his birthday. His wife is still being treated in hospital.
Governor of BangkokThailand’s largest city said Saturday that it inspected more than 400 entertainment venues in the city before the fire and found that 83 did not meet safety standards. Chadcart Sittipunt told reporters the venues would be ordered to close if they didn’t take action to fix the problem.
On January 1, 2009, 66 people were killed and more than 200 injured during a New Year’s Eve celebration at the Santika nightclub in Bangkok. That blaze was apparently started by an indoor fireworks display. Toxic fumes flooded the venue and set the entire club on fire, killing the toll.