THEY were at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Singaporean Megan Loy, 18, had hoped to celebrate the end of school with close friends by going on a vacation to Taiwan.
But their graduation trip ended in tragedy. A blaze in the middle of the annual Colour Play Asia festival at the Formosa Fun Coast water park on the outskirts of Taipei injured about 500 of more than 1,000 participants last Saturday night - including the group.
Yesterday, Taiwanese Lee Pei-yun, 20, died after suffering second-degree burns on more than 90 per cent of her body, becoming the first fatality, Reuters reported. Officials said more than 200 of those being treated remained in serious condition.
Ms Loy, who had previously been reported to be aged 21, suffered serious burns on up to 50 per cent of her body, and is now in intensive care at the Taipei Medical University Shuang-Ho Hospital.
Her three friends are Ms Samantha Chan, Ms Janice Li and Ms Theresa Yip, all aged 18, whom Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily identified as Hong Kong residents.
It reported that Ms Yip is in intensive care for second-degree burns, while Ms Li and Ms Chan suffered less serious first-degree burns covering up to 50 per cent of their bodies.
Based on information on their Facebook pages, all three are Ms Loy's schoolmates from Dulwich College Shanghai, an international school in the Pudong district of Shanghai, China. Ms Loy had listed the three as "family members" on her Facebook page, attesting to the closeness of their friendship.
The four had taken a group photo in front of the Taipei 101 skyscraper, a popular tourist attraction, before attending the ill-fated party last Saturday, the fifth day of their trip.
The Facebook profiles of Ms Loy's parents, Mr Joseph Loy and Ms Wee Ping Lim, indicate that the family reside in Shanghai. The Straits Times understands that they have arrived in Taipei and are with Ms Loy in hospital.
They did not respond to attempts to contact them by The Straits Times yesterday. The Singapore Trade Office in Taipei, which is in touch with them, said they have requested privacy.
Taiwan's Central News Agency reported that Ms Loy will be flown back early today to Singapore, where she will be admitted to Singapore General Hospital.
The Taiwanese authorities suspect that the explosion of coloured powder thrown on partygoers - a hallmark of the event - might be to blame for the fire, and have banned the use of the powder until investigations are over.
Mr Kevin Lo, an official with the city fire department, told Reuters yesterday that investigators are looking into three main possibilities - cigarette embers, a lighter or electrical sparks - that could have ignited the powder made of cornstarch.
Associate Professor Roderick Wayland Bates from Nanyang Technological University's Division of Chemistry and Biological Chemistry told The Straits Times: "When you have a fine cloud of a flammable material like cornstarch, all of the particles' surface areas are exposed to the air. This causes all of the particles to burn at once when there is a spark, which can cause an explosion."
Taiwon Food Industrial Co told news agency Agence France- Presse that Colour Play Asia had bought three tonnes of cornstarch in four separate deals this year. The firm said the cornstarch was "flammable under high temperatures". It said it had printed warnings on the bags of cornstarch, asking users to wear goggles.
Additional reporting by Janice Tai and Feng Zengkun