A CUSTOMER, who identified herself as Fah, said she and her two friends arrived at the disco at 10pm and it was already jampacked. It might have been a good thing that the place was nearly full with about 500 revellers, as her group had to stand near the entrance.bangkok-stampede

The crowds had come for the farewell party of the pub, in an event called ‘Goodbye Santika’, she said.

She saw a group of singers go on stage at nearly 1am and fireworks being set off to create a theatrical effect.

‘I believe the fireworks caused the ceiling to catch on fire, and it spread quickly,’ Fah said. ‘At first, I thought it was a stage effect, which looked like the real thing. Then someone shouted ‘fire, fire’ and panic broke out and people ran for their lives.

‘I’m lucky that my friends and I were standing near the door so we could get out quickly and safely.’

Mr Pongsiri Wongseng, 28, said he and his sister joined the farewell countdown party after hearing that the pub would close afterwards.

He said he, his girlfriend and his sisters as well as their friends had arrived at the pub in a group of seven and they moved to in front of the stage to groove to the music.

Mr Pongsiri said he saw flames shoot up onto the stage, causing the foam used as props on the ceiling to start burning. He said the blaze fanned out very fast and his girlfriend shouted to the others that a fire had broken out.

‘Everybody ran outside and the situation was very chaotic,’ he said. ‘I jumpkicked the glass wall in front of the pub. I made a small hole and don’t know how could I get out of it because I’m a big guy.’

He said he was worried about his girlfriend and sister, but they were rescued by emergency volunteers. His girlfriend suffered burns to her chest and hip and collapsed. She was rushed to Camillian Hospital. His sister also received minor burns.

Mr Somchai Frendi, who was inside the pub when the fire broke out, said the conflagration was caused by a piece of ‘special effect’ fireworks used to usher in the New Year. It set fire to the ceiling, which was made mostly of soundproofing, and the conflagration spread quickly.

Fire and smoke sent people on the second floor scrambling downstairs while those on the ground floor charged the exit. But since most panicking partygoers knew only one way out – the same way they had come in – there was a big crush and the results were deadly. There were three other exits that most of the pubcrawlers did not know about.

Ms Nathapat Rattanapinyopitak, 41, said she was seated near the exit along with her sister and a friend. It was her first time there as she wanted to join its ‘last party’ before it shut down.

After the fire broke out near the stage, she dragged her sister and friend and they were among the first groups to leave the building. She said she could feel the heat coming after her while escaping.

Ms Charinrat Bualuang, a 23-year-old university student, said the fire started quickly and a piece of burning ceiling fell down near where she was sitting.

She then ran out of a small door that smokers used to have a break outside. While dashing out, she heard loud screams behind her as frantic people were trying to force their way out of the building.

Showing some injuries, she said the experience would turn her off ever visiting nightclubs again. — The Nation