Thailand loses top firefighter in perfume factory fire
Nitiphat Nitiphongsakul, dubbed the country’s No 1 firefighter and firefighting expert, died Saturday during an operation to extinguish fire at a perfume-making factory in Bangkok’s Rat Burana district.
He passed out during the operation in the early hours of Saturday and was pronounced dead later after he was rushed to a nearby hospital.
His death came as a shock to not only his fellow firefighters but also the public in general.
Phonphichai Koetkan, 31, a volunteer taking part in the same firefighting operation, said all firefighters were wearing protective clothings and gas masks while in the burning building as they had learned that there was a vast quantity of potassium permanganate and formaldehyde at the burning factory.
Phonphichai, however, admitted that he and Nitiphat took off their masks after they had left the building from where thick smoke continued to billow and while waiting for a special team called in to deal with the chemicals in the factory.
The two were standing about 10 metres from the burning factory, a point where there was sufficient fresh air although they were still smelling chemicals, said Phonphichai.
And suddenly he saw Nitiphat stride towards the direction of an ambulance but fell on the ground and lost his consciousness before he could reach the ambulance, said Mr Phonphichai.
“At that moment, I didn’t think he would die. His heart was still beating when the medics tried to resuscitate him and rushed him to hospital,” said Phonphichai. “I was totally shocked to know that he had died. He appeared very healthy during Saturday’s operation and if it was those chemicals that killed him, why no one else in the team was affected?”
Nitiphat graduated with a doctoral degree in disaster prevention and mitigation from the Philippines. He has been recognized as Thailand’s top firefighter and gave countless lectures and workshops on firefighting. He previously took part in the operation to rescue the 12 Wild Boar footballers and their coach from Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai.