Page last updated at 13:59 GMT, Friday, 2 January 2009

'Angel' saved Briton in Thai fire

Bangkok nightclub fire
Rescue workers remove a body from the burnt-out nightclub

A British survivor of the New Year's Eve nightclub fire in Bangkok says an "angel" dragged him to safety after he was overcome with smoke.

Londoner Alex Wargacki, 29, said he blacked out before feeling himself being dragged to an exit.

Mr Wargacki and Oliver Smart from South Yorkshire remain in intensive care after the fire killed 61 people.

Cardiff aircraft technician Steven Hall, 35, and a fourth British victim, Adam Butler, 26, are also in hospital.

Police said the Santika Club fire may have been caused by sparks from a stage display.

They said most of the victims died from suffocation, but some were also killed in a stampede as people tried to leave the club. More than 200 were injured.

'Horrified'

Speaking from Bangkok's private Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital, Mr Wargacki told reporters: "I felt myself going unconscious. I knew something was happening to my lungs. I could not breathe. I blacked out and fell to the floor.

"I woke up and heard this voice saying. 'Come on. Come on this way'. Then I felt myself being dragged towards an exit.

"Had it not been for this voice with the hand of an angel I would not be alive today."

Oliver Smart
Oliver Smart, 35, is believed to be recovering on a ventilator

The foreign exchange trader, who has lived in Bangkok for four years, suffered burns and smoke inhalation and is on a respirator to help him breathe.

He said: "When I get out I'm going to see if I can find the person who pulled me out of there. I think he was a fireman, but I'm not sure. I'd like to thank him."

Mr Smart's father George, from Oxspring near Barnsley, said he has been unable to contact his son but understood he had a collapsed lung caused by smoke inhalation and severe burns.

He added that he had no idea how he escaped the blaze or if he was helped to safety and was waiting for more information from the Foreign Office.

"Yesterday was an awful day... seeing the pictures, it must have been awful for anyone involved," he said.

"The not knowing made it even worse."

His son was a medical association manager overseas on an extended Christmas break, Mr Smart said.

Mr Hall said some partygoers seemed to think the flames were part of the show, and stopped to watch.

He said: "All of a sudden I saw flames billowing from the top of the stage, then along the ceiling.

"Then everybody converged towards the exit from the balconies, down the stairs area, and from the dance floor. It was a bit like a stampede.

"It did take a few moments to realise what was going on, because it seemed as though it was part of the performance.

"But looking at the performers on stage, looking at the embers and what looked like sparks falling down on to the stage, they looked totally horrified."

Steven Hall on how he escaped the fire

Mr Butler, of Birmingham, told the Telegraph: "There was a pyrotechnic that launched off the stage where a band was playing.

"For five seconds no-one took it seriously and when everyone realised it was serious there was nowhere to run. By then the flames were already above our heads.

"I was trampled but I managed to get back to my feet."

Dozens of corpses wrapped in white sheets were laid out in front of the burnt-out club.

A Thai forensics expert said it could take a week to identify nearly 30 of the most badly disfigured bodies.

Bangkok officials said at least 35 foreigners were among the injured, including people from Australia, Belgium, France, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said embassy staff on the ground are providing consular assistance to the British nationals involved.

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SEE ALSO
Thai police seek club blaze clues
02 Jan 09 |  Asia-Pacific
Dozens die in Bangkok nightclub
31 Dec 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Thailand
15 Dec 08 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Thailand
15 Dec 08 |  Country profiles


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