Bangkok freezes fire drills after fatal school mishap, calls for rigorous reform

An ambulance car carrying the injured student leaves a high school for a hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, June 23. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

The Governor of Bangkok, Chadchart Sittipunt, appealed for extensive reform of disaster prevention and mitigation systems in the wake of a lethal explosion that occurred during a fire drill at a local school. Fire evacuation exercises throughout the city will remain suspended while safety checks on fire-fighting apparatus are carried out.

This update in policy comes in the aftermath of a tragic event that saw a carbon dioxide extinguisher detonation at Rajavinit Mathayom School in the Dusit district. This unfortunate occurrence resulted in the loss of a student’s life and left several others wounded.

To avoid further similar mishaps, the trio involved in the execution of the drill have been charged with negligence. Initial investigations indicate that extreme outdoor heat could have been a contributing factor to the blast.

Bangkok Deputy Governor Thawida Kamolvej yesterday announced the suspension of all fire drills until safety reviews of all equipment are carried out. Thawida added that all carbon dioxide extinguishers from fire centres across the city have been withdrawn.

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She highlighted that local fire stations and district offices have been tasked with collaborating with community leaders to conduct thorough inspections of all city extinguishers. This directive focuses on identifying any damage, leaks or other potential issues.

A significant move, Thawida said the development of guidelines is needed to ensure that inspections are carried out adequately. Furthermore, district offices will replace any faulty extinguishers, and residents are encouraged to report defective equipment through the Traffy Fondue website.

Fire Drill Safety
Students leave a high school as a fire extinguisher exploded during the school’s annual fire drill in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, June 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

To avoid potential risks in the future, Thawida stated that future fire drill demonstrations will utilize mock extinguishers. She said…

“The standard of operations will be revised to come into line with that of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.”

Despite borrowing fire extinguishers from various agencies for drills, safety standards are maintained, she said. Following the recent incident, City Hall has instigated a committee to carry out a comprehensive investigation.

Governor Chadchart expressed his deep regret over the incident and informed that City Hall officials have been asked to stop using fire equipment from other agencies in fire drills. They have also been instructed to gather data on community fire-fighting equipment, encompassing their latest inspection dates and locations.

He reassured residents not to panic, stating that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration will conduct safety inspections on fire extinguishers. However, he agreed with investigators that the exploded extinguisher was underfilled with CO2 and was six years old. A forensic examination will determine how the disaster unfolded.

Fire Drill Safety
Firefighters investigate an explosion site at a school in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, June 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

The three officials linked to the detonation were yesterday granted bail by the Criminal Court. The bail, set at 50,000 baht each, was granted to Naphat Loymek, Atthapol Buthongrat and Chat-achana Boonkerd.

The police report alleged these officials utilised an outdated, subpar fire extinguisher during the demonstration, failing to provide necessary protection for the students.

While the chief of the agency accountable for the fire drill has not reached out to the affected family yet, the school and City Hall have pledged to compensate for their loss.

Funeral rites for the deceased student, Khumthong Premmanee, are expected to culminate on Tuesday, following three days of mourning. The family was deeply touched upon receiving word about royally-bestowed wreaths being placed at Khumthong’s funeral on the order of Their Majesties, reported Bangkok Post.

Thailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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