2 alleged fuel smugglers arrested, released in connection with Plutaluang explosion

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Two men have been arrested for operating an illegal benzene storage depot that exploded, destroying three homes in a government housing project in Plutaluang.

Jatupong Songsan, 49, turned himself into Plutaluang police March 14, admitting he owned the house inside the National Housing Authority’s Oueay Athorn Chonburi Plutaluang 2 development where about 1,000 liters of benzene were stored illegally. Adul Kampana, 35, was arrested when he returned to what was left of the house to retrieve documents. Both men were released pending further investigation.

The explosion occurred March 12 after a worker – smoking a cigarette – spilled fuel on the ground while transferring it to a 200-liter tank truck. The employee ran when flames burst out and escaped injury after the tanks exploded. Two neighboring homes, both empty at the time, also were destroyed. No one was injured.

Firefighters put out a blaze at an illegal benzene storage depot that exploded, destroying three homes.Firefighters put out a blaze at an illegal benzene storage depot that exploded, destroying three homes.

Police said Jatupong confessed to buying the benzene from a trucker out of Rayong who had stolen it from his employer and was reselling it at 20 baht per liter. Jatupong insisted to police that he had no intention of reselling the fuel himself, but planned to use it for transport vehicles.

Because no one was injured and because no benzene was recovered from six different tanks, police agreed to the suspects’ requests for release, upon promises they’d return after the investigation concluded. For now, they’ve been charged with recklessness leading to fire.