Taguig building blast: Renter is ‘person of interest’
The renter of apartment 501B at Two Serendra complained that he was “suffocating” hours before a powerful explosion ripped through the posh building in Taguig City on Friday night, the Inquirer learned yesterday.
The blast blew out the walls of apartment 501B, sending a slab of concrete flying onto the street below and smashing into a passing delivery van for a well-known chain of appliance stores.
The van’s driver and two of his crew were crushed to death and five other people, including Angelito San Juan, renter of apartment 501B, were injured.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said San Juan, who was reported as leaving his apartment when the explosion occurred, was considered a “person of interest” in the investigation of the blast.
Roxas made it clear that San Juan was “not a suspect.”
The term “suspect” has a legal connotation, Roxas told the Inquirer by phone.
“A person of interest simply means we’re interested in him and in obtaining his testimony,” he said.
A government official who has knowledge of the investigation told the Inquirer yesterday that San Juan, besides complaining of breathing difficulty, also had reported that there was no electricity in his apartment before the explosion occurred.
The source, who asked not to be named as the investigation was in progress, said a certain Dominique Chua, reportedly a caretaker at the building, arrived to check on San Juan about an hour before the blast.
“The statement that will be coming from Mr. San Juan will be very vital [to the investigation],” the source said.
Roxas, in an e-mailed statement, confirmed the report about San Juan.
He said San Juan had told the building administrator that “he was suffocating inside the apartment despite having the air-conditioning [unit] on.”
San Juan, who was renting the apartment for nine days, suffered burns on the back and remained under intensive care at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City.
The source said investigators were trying to locate George Cayton, the overseas worker who owned apartment 501B.
Not ‘ordinary renter’
He said investigators had received information that San Juan is “not an entire stranger” to Cayton.
“San Juan is not an ordinary renter. The owner apparently knows him. He could be a relative of Mr. Cayton,” the source said.
Tony Aquino, president of Ayala Land Inc., the property owner, confirmed at a news conference on Saturday that San Juan had a lease on the apartment good for nine days only, from May 31 to June 9.
The Inquirer source said caretaker Chua decided to see San Juan when he did not answer her calls to his cell phone.
Chua got a security officer to accompany her to apartment 501B, the source said.
“So Ms. Chua went to the building because she was nervous after San Juan failed to answer her calls. She supposedly had a dinner appointment with San Juan at 7 that night,” the source said.
San Juan opened the door and let Chua in, the source said.
They talked and after a few minutes, Chua stepped out and proceeded to the parking area, where she told the security officer she would wait in her car for San Juan, the source said.
“While Ms. Chua was waiting, a loud explosion was heard,” the source said.
“The security officer said he saw San Juan hobbling and was badly burned. [San Juan] was then being assisted out of the building,” the source said.
The security officer had given a sworn statement to investigators, the source said.
No bomb traces
Investigators on Sunday remained at a loss to explain the blast, as no traces of explosives or chemicals that could cause an explosion had been found.
But Roxas said the government was still not discounting the possibility that the explosion was caused by a bomb.
“The initial findings and evidence gathered are still not conclusive to make any conclusion right now,” Roxas said.
He said investigators were also looking into the circumstances surrounding the explosion that tore through the Glorietta 2 section of Ayala Mall in Makati City in 2007 to see if it was similar to the Two Serendra blast.
Investigators blamed the Glorietta explosion on methane in the shopping mall’s basement.
Having found no signs of a bomb explosion, the investigators turned on Sunday to the possible engineering flaws in the building.
Roxas said the investigators were going to examine the building’s “utility pipes,” the lines through which the building gets electricity, gas and water.
Turning to science
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) joined the investigation yesterday, Roxas said.
“We want to find out what kind of explosion can propel this heavy slab of concrete that far,” he said, referring to the large piece of the building’s wall that the explosion sent flying to the far side of the street below, where it smashed into the delivery van.
Roxas said the DOST could provide the answer “through chemistry and physics.”
Investigators also began to take statements from tenants on the third and fourth floors of Two Serendra, Roxas said.
He said the Department of Public Works and Highways had been asked to assess the structural soundness of the building after the forensic investigation.
Asked if the absence of signs of explosives made it likely that the blast was not caused by a bomb, Roxas replied: “That is a conjecture but it’s a reasonable conjecture. It’s reasonable to think that the lesser the probability that it’s a bomb, the higher the probability that it’s something else.”—With a report from Niña P. Calleja
Originally posted: 7:27 pm | Sunday, June 2nd, 2013
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