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American Among 13 Dead in Hotel Fire in Bangkok

January 02, 1988|From Times Wire Services

BANGKOK, Thailand — The death toll rose Friday to 13, including one American, in a New Year's Day fire in a Bangkok hotel that forced some guests to dive out windows into a swimming pool and others to scale the outside of the nine-story building to escape smoke and flames.

The fire at the First Hotel began at 4 a.m. in a party room and raged for four hours. Thirty-six people were injured. The dead included a woman who fell from the helicopter flying her to safety. Police said they believed they had accounted for all 400 guests who were registered at the 218-room hotel.

Daniel James Ryan, 27, of Jacksonville, Ark., burned to death after he decided to wait for rescuers instead of trying to flee, said a friend, Leo S. Roland.

Smoke Forced Them Back

Roland said he and Ryan tried first to escape down the stairs, but smoke forced them back to the top floor. Roland said he then climbed out the window to get to the roof, but Ryan stayed behind.

"I went back to see if he was OK," said Roland, 26, of St. Louis. "He had passed out. I pulled him to the window but I couldn't carry him. He weighed more than 300 pounds. I couldn't help him at all. . . . The fire eventually got to him."

Roland eventually climbed down from the roof on a firefighters' ladder.

The two men had arrived in Bangkok on New Year's Eve for a vacation from their jobs as aircraft mechanics for Boeing Co. in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Six other Americans were registered at the hotel, but all escaped safely, said U.S. Embassy spokesman Ross Petzing.

Besides Ryan, the victims included seven Singaporeans, two Malaysians, one Taiwanese, and an Australian. One body was unidentified.

Fell From Helicopter

The Australian victim, Jane Thai, fell to her death from a ladder attached to a helicopter flying her to safety. Rescue worker Vichien Sae Tang said the woman fell onto the roof of a house about 50 yards from the hotel.

Singaporean Shiao En-lo lost two daughters, ages 4 and 6, her husband, and her mother-in-law.

"I live alone now," she said, weeping.

The hotel's night manager, Apichart Sungsithiveth, said the fire started at a switchboard of a second-floor room that is used for parties. Apichart said he and other hotel workers tried to put out the fire themselves, but it kept spreading.

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