People died in RWM fire because gunfight prevented them from fleeing
The 37 people killed in the attack at Resorts World Manila were apparently too afraid to come out of their hiding places because of the gunfight between the lone Jessie Javier Carlos and the security personnel and police, the House of Representatives learned on Wednesday.
During the House probe on the attack, which took place on Friday midnight, Resorts World Manila President Kingson Sian explained why there were 37 people who died in the attack, mostly due to suffocation, even though the casino was well equipped with CCTV cameras, smoke detectors, an exhaust system, and sprinklers.
Sian said most of those killed did not come out of their hiding places because they feared getting caught in the crossfire between the police officers and security personnel and the gunman Carlos.
In a small room where many people perished, Sian said the people there were too afraid to come out because the gunman left his bag of ammunition just outside, giving them the impression that there were more than one gunman.
“It’s very unfortunate that there were fatalities,” Sian said. “What complicated the matter was not the fire, but the gunfire which struck fear. It’s usually the normal reaction ng tao na, kung may sunog, tatakbo away from sunog. In this case, hindi sila lumabas ng kwarto because of fear.”
“Naglagay ng bag ng bala sa table na katabi ng kwarto where a lot of people perished to give the impression na marami pong gunman – even though the gunman was away from the area. I believe that was what happened,” Sian added.
Despite the fatalities, Resorts World Manila management was able to safely evacuate 12,100 guests and employees through its 13 fire exits on the second floor, nine of which were located in the gaming area, Sian said.
Sian said the fire Carlos started on casino tables was put out by the sprinklers on the ceiling.
An explosion of a parked BMW on the second floor also instilled more fear and contributed much smoke to the area, Sian said.
“On the second floor, may nakadisplay na BMW. Apparently, parang sumabog yung tanke which we confirmed has around 10 liters of fuel. Sumabog siya, there are pictures that can show yung gulong niya natunaw. Remember, yung gulong produces a lot of toxic fumes that added to the smoke,” Sian said.
Apparently, the smoke that caused much of the suffocation came from the burning chairs that had foam, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) told the House.
The House also learned that the firefighters were stalled from going to the second floor for their safety due to the gunfight between police and Carlos.
The firefighters were later able to enter the building despite a lockdown ordered by the police, the BFP has said.
But firefighters were not familiar with the layout of the casino, which was then clouded with smoke.
Three House committees – on games and amusement, tourism, and public order and safety – held the hearing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3, just across the casino.
The hearing was chaired by the heads of the three committees: Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting (games and amusements), Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres Gomez (tourism), and Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop (public order and safety).
During the casino attack last Friday midnight, Jessie Javier Carlos barged in the casino carrying an M4 carbine and fired shots.
He went on to torch casino tables and steal P113.1-million worth of casino chips.
As security personnel went after him, Carlos holed himself up inside a hotel room in the complex, where he set himself on fire before shooting himself in the mouth.
The police has deemed the attack as a robbery instead of a terroristic act, even though the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
Carlos, a former tax specialist at the Department of Finance, was dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged ill-gotten wealth and was facing a forfeiture case at the Manila Regional Trial Court.
The police described him as a gambling addict who was banned from all casinos and was in deep debt before he carried out the attack.
His parents apologized to the victims, calling their son a kind man but was addicted to gambling.
The police decried Resort World’s failure to implement its security plan, saying there was only one security guard posted at the entrance for the graveyard shift at the time of the attack. /atm
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