Eight people were killed at the headquarters of one of Thailand’s largest banks – Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) – on Sunday, March 13, 2016. Contractors accidentally released fire extinguishing chemicals while working on an upgrade to the fire safety system, according to the bank.
Those killed were said to have suffocated after a gas mixture, which depletes oxygen, was released. One security guard and seven contractors died as a result, and another seven were injured in the incident.
SCB said in a statement that contractors appeared to be to blame for setting off the system.
“From the preliminary investigation by the police, the incident may have been caused by the negligence of contractors who were hired to make additional improvements to the building’s fire security system,” said the SCB.
Police are investigating the accident, and the bank said it would release more information after a meeting of its board members.
Freshman Lauren Lucas says, “I understand that the contractors may have caused this, but it was on the bank’s property. I’m not certain on how the laws work in Thailand, but from my knowledge of U.S. laws, I believe the bank should take some responsibility.”
An SCB spokesperson said that the incident took place in one of the bank’s vaults at the head office, which stored documents.
Firemen were delayed in arriving to the scene due to the tightly locked doors in the bank’s vault.
The bank also said that on Sunday morning, an aerosol system called pyrogen was “inadvertently activated and exhausted all the oxygen in the area” as contractors were working on it.
Pyrogen is a chemical fire-retardant normally intended to deprive fire of oxygen, and is typically used in places where extinguishing a fire with water would damage documents or equipment.
Pyrogen’s website says the dense aerosol is “most effective in unoccupied areas such as data rooms, machinery and engine spaces” and other storage areas. It also says people should avoid exposure to pyrogen and any “accidental exposure to the aerosol should be limited to five minutes.”
Freshman Carlee Degregorio says, “Builders of these institutions and buildings should take more precautions when constructing. I understand that accidents happen, but the safety of the workers should be the first priority. I’ve heard and read about accidents similar to this; I think constructors should be more careful.”
Bangkok’s Erawan medical emergency center said five people died at the site of the accident and three died later at a hospital. The apparent cause of death was suffocation from insufficient oxygen, but the official cause would not be known until autopsies are performed.
Seven other people suffered suffocation-related injuries, including four who were in serious condition, Erawan said.
The bank expressed “deep regret” for those affected by “this unfortunate incident,” and claimed that they would provide initial assistance for those injured.
Sophomore Chris Pagliarulo says, “I think that it is the bank’s responsibility to assist anyone who was affected by the accident. But I also believe that it was truly an accident; I don’t think the bank should be blamed too much.”
Despite the incident, the bank will remain open for business.
Who do you believe should take responsibility for the accident?