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Fire victim’s family to push for new fire code

A police officer inspects the burned-out shell of a nightclub in Siem Reap
A police officer inspects the burned-out shell of a nightclub in Siem Reap last month, during an investigation into the cause of a deadly fire that claimed five lives. Thik Kaliyann

Fire victim’s family to push for new fire code

The mother of an Australian killed in a Siem Reap nightclub fire will join efforts to improve fire safety standards in Cambodia, as a police report confirms an electrical fault sparked the deadly blaze last month.

Five people died after a fire broke out at the popular Hip Hop Club on November 18 at about 2:40am.

The police report identifies faulty wiring in the club’s roof as the cause of the blaze which killed four Cambodians and Australian disability worker Tom Ricketson, 32, who had been in the country for two weeks after travelling in Vietnam.

Ricketson’s mother, Nell Brown, said in an interview yesterday she wanted the tragedy to inspire change in the Kingdom’s approach to fire safety, particularly by those who “get rich off the tourism industry”.

“My son wasn’t the only one who died, there were four other people, they were university students and they are the future of Cambodia, and the country can’t afford to lose its brightest like this,” Brown, 58, said.

“I would like someone to be held accountable, but the things that can come out of this could save people in the future and that is my overriding concern; that it does not happen in the future.

“I cannot bring my son back but I don’t want his death to be in vain.”

Brown will work with Cambodia-based firefighting consultant Paul Hurford, whose firm Azisafe is helping to draft a code of practice to improve the Kingdom’s fire safety standards.

Hurford said the code – which will cover a broad spectrum of fire safety standards, from building design and emergency exits to fire extinguishers – would initially be voluntary, however there is hope to later integrate it into legislation.

According to Australia’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Department, the police report on the blaze has been passed to the Siem Reap Provincial Court for further investigation, but it’s unclear whether any action will be taken.

Meanwhile, the Hip Hop Club is undergoing repairs. Local police chief Pich Samaol said he didn’t know whether it would reopen. An adjacent associated club called Hip Hop Classic reopened a few days after the fire.

To honour Ricketson, Brown and her daughter Ella have also partnered with the Tabitha Foundation to raise money to fulfill his goal of volunteering in Cambodia, particularly building houses for a poor community he encountered in Phnom Penh.

The fund can be found on the Tabitha Foundation website.

“Once he got to Cambodia he knew he had to go back and do something,” Brown said. “He found what he wanted to do with his life.”

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