Flaming cocktail could have started blaze that killed three in Hong Kong bartender’s subdivided flat, source says

Friends of victim Luk Hon-yin, 25, tell police he had made such beverages at home in the past

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 August, 2017, 3:35pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 9:12am

An attempt to concoct a flaming cocktail drink could have caused a blaze that killed three Hong Kong youngsters in a subdivided flat over the weekend, the Post has learned.

According to a government source with knowledge of the case, investigators suspect that some cotton-filled soundproofing pads in the flat could have been set alight by someone trying to mix a flaming drink.

The flat, which is less than 300 sq ft in size, had been rented by one of the victims – part-time bartender Luk Hon-yin, 25 – for about a year, and was used as a “hang-out” for drinking and karaoke, the source said.

“We suspect the three victims were unable to escape in time and were forced to hide in the toilet because the fire broke out near the exit and blocked the escape route,” he added.

The theory was formed after Luk’s friends told police he had made flaming drinks there in the past. But even if this was the case, the source said it was unknown who was mixing the cocktail at the time of the incident.

Officers found glass fragments, blackened and damaged bottles of liquor, and at least one cigarette lighter in the flat.

Karaoke and other audio and video equipment were also discovered, including microphones and a television set. No mattresses or bedding items were found.

Three people die in blaze in Hong Kong industrial building

The two other victims were Luk’s girlfriend, saleswoman Cheng Sze-man, 21, and their friend Siu Chak-san, 18, who was unemployed.

As no serious burns were found on the bodies, the trio were thought to have died from suffocation after inhaling choking smoke, another source said.

“At this stage, investigations have found nothing suspicious over the cause of their deaths,” he said, adding that an autopsy would be carried out.

The fire broke out in Luk’s subdivided flat on the 10th floor of the 45-year-old Mai Sik Industrial Building in Kwai Chung at about 6pm on Saturday. It took about 30 minutes to put out the blaze. The three victims were found unconscious in the flat toilet. They were taken to hospital, where they were later certified dead.

Owner of subdivided Hong Kong flat where fire killed three could be prosecuted

The block did not have an automatic sprinkler system installed due to exemptions for such buildings constructed before 1973.

A preliminary investigation by the Buildings Department indicated that no authorisation had been given to the owner of the flat to alter building plans and carve up the 6,000 sq ft space into 17 separate rooms, nor had they submitted an application to carry out minor building works.

Some of the alteration works also failed to meet the safety standards for fire escapes and fire-resistant construction.

The department said it would issue a statutory order to the relevant persons demanding rectification of the irregularities, collect further evidence and consider prosecution.

On Monday morning, investigators from police, the Fire Services Department and the Buildings Department returned to the scene to gather evidence.

The Fire Services Department said on Monday night that it had inspected fire equipment and escape passages in six other industrial buildings in the Kwai Chung district and would follow up if irregularities were found.

It added that the fire system in the Mai Sik Industrial Building had been inspected in July and was found to be in normal condition, with the exception of some minor damage at several manual fire alarm call points and parts of the hose reel system.

The fire detection system in the building had been triggered during the fire, and the fire alarm system had alerted the department.