Condo owner, engineer charged over deaths in Thai building collapse

Five of the seven suspects wanted in connection with the deadly condominium collapse on Monday have been charged with recklessness that caused deaths after they surrendered to the police.

Present at the press conference alongside police yesterday were Saksit Inthong, the engineer supervising construction, Diao Prabjone, a constructor, Boonyakorn Heebthong, managing director of the U Place Co Ltd, Pensri Kitipaisannont, one of the U Place condominium project's owners, and her 18-year-old daughter.

If convicted, they face up to 10 years in jail and a maximum fine of Bt20,000 (S$780).

"I am so saddened by what has happened. If I could have made a choice, I would have agreed to die in the victims' place," Pensri said. "But in current circumstances, I can only offer assistance to the victims".

Both Saksit and Diao denied supervising the construction at the time the building collapsed. Also wanted in this case are Chanaichon Kerdtes, also a constructor, and Jira Khanman, a foreman.

The accident at the condominium in Pathum Thani province has claimed at least three lives while five victims still trapped under the debris are feared dead. "I was standing there right in front of the building when it crumbled down. I was shocked. My own son was working on the sixth floor of the building at the time of the accident," Diao told police.

His son was among the survivors.

Diao, 43, said he did construction jobs for the project. He said he brought along his own workers but used materials provided at the site.

"I haven't signed any contract, though. I'm quite familiar with the firm."

Pathum Thani Governor Pongsatorn Sajjacholapund has ordered the suspension of construction, including of another building, at the site. There are already three completed and occupied buildings in the compound.

The search for bodies continued, with the families of missing workers gathering nearby in the hope their loved ones would be found.

Soldiers helping with demolition

Officials from the Pathum Thani Provincial Administrative Organisation and soldiers were helping with the demolition of the building.

Suchatvee Suwansawat, president of the Engineering Institute of Thailand (EIT), has led a team to inspect the ruins of the building.

"Observations suggest that the building might have fallen storey by storey. The sixth floor was the first to go and then it went down to the fifth, fourth, and so on," he said.

The EIT has raised three possible causes for the failed project - a flawed blueprint, substandard construction materials or substandard construction techniques.

"For example, you have to wait for a concrete floor to completely dry before you build a floor on top of it. Any failure to wait for the proper time will mean the floor won't be strong and it may not be able to carry the weight above," he said.

However, it would take seven more days before the exact cause could be identified, he said.

Police said about 20 witnesses have been questioned.

Dr Pradya Chotiya from Pathum Thani Hospital said the injured worker pulled from the debris was now in safe condition.

Klanarong Prappai, 24, had crushed his legs and hipbone and felt some abdominal pain. "He can speak coherently," the doctor said.

Governor Pongsatorn also visited the recovering patient.