Thai court acquits nightclub owner after deadly inferno

Thai court acquits nightclub owner after deadly inferno
A Thai fire official takes a picture of the bodies of victims outside Santika nightclub in Bangkok January 1, 2009.

BANGKOK - The owner of a Bangkok nightclub destroyed by a fire that killed 67 people on New Year's Day in 2009 was acquitted of gross negligence Tuesday on appeal.

Visuk Setsawat, whose Santika Club was set ablaze by pyrotechnics during a performance by rock band Burn, was sentenced to three years in prison in September 2011 but was cleared by the Appeal Court in the Thai capital.

"The decision has changed to an acquittal of the first defendant (Visuk) on every charge," the court said in a statement posted on its website.

Boonchu Laosrinak, owner of Focus Light Sound System Company, the company that installed the pyrotechnics, was also sentenced to three years in jail in September 2011. His appeal was rejected by the court.

More than a hundred people were wounded, including 32 who suffered critical or life-changing injuries, according to the prosecutor at the original trial.

Hundreds of partygoers were inside the upmarket nightclub when it caught fire.

Three Singaporeans, one Japanese and a Myanmar national were among the dead, while scores of foreigners including some from Australia, France and Britain were injured.

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