MANADO, Indonesia - After questioning dozens of witnesses, the Manado Police in North Sulawesi have named a local businessman a suspect in connection to a recent fire at the Inul Vizta karaoke club that claimed the lives of 12 people.
"Our investigators have named the owner of Inul Vizta [Manado], David Joscom, a suspect in the case. The suspect is charged with negligence and [failure to provide] proper safety facilities in the building," Manado Police chief Sr. Comr. Rio Permana told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
Manado Police criminal investigation unit head Comr. Esron Sinaga, meanwhile, said the police would charge David with violating Article 359 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on negligence resulting in death, which carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison.
Esron said the investigation into the deadly incident was still ongoing.
"This is not final. If we get new evidence, we might get new suspects," he said, adding that the police had so far questioned 23 witnesses.
On Oct. 25, a fire ravaged the Inul Vizta karaoke club, killing seven men and five women and injuring dozens of others.
The fire, which broke out at around 1 a.m. and originated from the second floor of the three-story building in the Megamas business area, is believed to have been caused by an electrical short circuit. The police, however, have yet to reveal the results of their investigation into the cause of the fire.
Most of the victims died as a result of smoke inhalation.
The club, which is part of a chain of karaoke venues owned by popular dangdut singer Inul Daratista, was packed with visitors that night, with many visitors having to stand in line as all the rooms were occupied.
Among the 12 victims were Fredy Kalalo and his wife Claudia Wowor, who came to the karaoke club to celebrate a friend's birthday.
The couple from the Klabat Stadium area, Manado, had only recently married and Claudia was reportedly pregnant.
The niece of Minahasa Regent Jantje Sajow, Sinta Sajow, was also among the victims.
Esron said police had also summoned Inul, as the owner of the Inul Vizta brand, for questioning next week.
"We summon Inul in her capacity as a witness in the case," he said.
Inul who was born in Pasuruan, East Java, opened the first Inul Vizta karaoke parlour in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta, with an investment of Rp 4 billion (S$413,576).
After the venue proved to be a success, Inul opened branches across the country.
Her husband Adam Suseno and a close Korean friend reportedly assist Inul in running her karaoke business.
Several days after the incident, Inul went to Manado to meet relatives of the victims of the incident and visit the injured victims who were treated in local hospitals.
David's lawyer, Lucky Scramm, meanwhile, said that his client would respect the ongoing legal process regarding the case.
"We have just heard about the naming [of David as a suspect]; we will respect the entire ongoing legal process," Lucky said, as quoted by tribunnews.com.
An eyewitnesses named Roni said that an electricity blackout had occurred about 20 minutes before the fire, but added that electricity had come back on within a minute.
"I saw thick smoke in the building. It was probably because the fire razed the rooms, which were made from plastic and foamed plastic," he said.
Following the incident, injured victims were rushed to a number of hospitals in Manado, including Kandou Malalayang, Siloam, Pancaran Kasih, Prof. Dr. VL Ratumbuysang and Bhayangkara.