Bacolod mayor forms task force to probe deadly pension house fire

Bacolod mayor forms task force to probe deadly pension house fire

BACOLOD CITY — Mayor Evelio Leonardia has ordered the creation of a task force to conduct a deeper investigation into the Java Pension House fire that left six persons dead here on Tuesday morning.

“We would like a thorough investigation because we are talking of the situation of the downtown area,” the mayor said in an interview at the site in the afternoon.

Leonardia said he has directed Edward Cuansing, secretary to the mayor, to form a committee or task force mainly comprised of representatives from the Bureau of Fire Protection, Bacolod City Police Office, Office of the Building Official, and the barangays.

Downtown accommodation facilities should again be checked by the authorities, he added.

The blaze started past 4:30 a.m. at the ground floor of the pension house, locally known as the former Bascon Hotel, located at the corner of Gonzaga and Locsin Streets.

Those who perished were owner Christopher Java, 33; his mother Magdalena, 73; Christopher’s son Miguel, 12; the boy’s nursemaid Ronalyn Dacalio, 43; and front desk employee Arnold Felomino, 58.

A charred body of a male, believed to be in his 50s, has yet to be identified.

Chief Inspector Publio Ploteña, city fire marshal, said the Javas live in the building with Dacalio, and their bodies were found inside a room on the second floor, where they could have suffocated.

Felomino was found on the hallway of the second floor while the body of the unidentified man was recovered on the rooftop.

Radio reports said witnesses saw three men setting a motorcycle helmet on fire on the ground floor.

“If the allegation is true there should be criminal responsibility here to give justice to all the victims. It’s a very sad incident because it’s not only about property, there were persons who lost their lives. I condole with the families of the victims,” Leonardia said.

Four guests, including Australian national Paul Codognato, were injured and brought to a hospital. The three others were identified by the police as Rey Bayona, Janine Pepito, and Romeo Omnus.

One of the survivors, 67-year-old Japanese Katsumi Suzuki, said he crawled through the window to get out of his room as thick smoke settled.

Ploteña said they are looking into different angles in their investigation. “We’re trying to secure a copy of closed-circuit television (CCTV) videos near the area,” he added.

He said only a part of Java Pension House was burned, and six neighboring business establishments also reported damages.  Nanette Guadalquiver / PNA –