TAIPEI • A deadly fireball that ripped through a crowd of young revellers at a water park in June was caused when coloured powder was ignited by stage lights, an investigation has found.
The cornstarch powder had been sprayed over partygoers at the Formosa Fun Coast water park, which is on the outskirts of Taipei.
The powder exploded when it came into contact with the lights, whose surface temperatures reached more than 400 deg C, the Liberty Times reported yesterday, citing a fire department investigation. Investigators said the concentration of powder in the air was high because event organisers kept ejecting the coloured powder, whose kindling point was 430 deg C, after the party began.
With the movement of the revellers and wind, the powder rose and came into contact with the suspended stage beam lights and ignited in mid-air. The report ruled out an earlier theory that the blaze was caused by a cigarette because a lit cigarette is not hot enough to cause the powder to combust.
Eleven people were killed in the fire and hundreds were hospitalised, some with third-degree burns covering more than 90 per cent of their bodies.
The report has been submitted to prosecutors, but officials declined to comment on its content. "We will use this report as a reference," Shihlin district prosecutor's office spokesman Su Pei-yu said. "We can't reveal details at the moment as the investigation is under way."
The Colour Play Asia festival - which drew around 1,000 visitors, mostly aged between 18 and 25 - turned into a nightmare when the fireball engulfed the stage at around 8.30pm. Video footage showed people screaming and running for their lives.
Two months on, 42 of the victims are still in critical condition, said the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Three suspects have been released on bail as prosecutors investigate them on charges of offences against public safety and negligence causing deaths.
Six more are being investigated, prosecutors said, including both the chairman and the president of the water park. The park remains closed, according to its website.