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French family tell of terrifying hours after Tiger blaze

PHUKET: The family of Frenchman Benjamin Tallanotte, severely injured in the Tiger bar and disco complex in Patong, have described their terrifying four-hour search for Benjamin following the blaze.

Claire Connell

Saturday 18 August 2012, 03:43PM

Benjamin, 30, is currently in intensive care in Bangkok Hospital Phuket after suffering severe burns to around 40 per cent of his body. He is being flown to an international hospital in Bangkok this afternoon, for specialised burns care. Four people died in the fire that broke out at around 3.30am on Friday, while Benjamin and 10 others were injured.

Benjamin's niece spoke to The Phuket News at the hospital and said the seven family members were on a one-month holiday around Asia. On the trip were Benjamin, his wife and one-year-old daughter, Benjamin's brother and sister in law, and his niece and nephew. 

The family arrived in Phuket about a week and a half ago, and were due to fly back to France in about a week's time. 

But Friday night changed that.

Benjamin, his brother in law, and nephew were at the Tiger complex when the fire broke out.

Benjamin's brother in law, who did not want to be named, said the lights went off at the venue, and before he knew it there were flames. He and his nephew were right by the door on the ground floor of the building and left the building quickly, but said Benjamin was a floor above with another friend. 

The pair waited an hour outside the complex for Benjamin. His motorbike was still outside Tiger, but they hoped he had already made it out.

"I was very nervous and so worried. I thought and hoped that maybe he had got out already and gone back to his hotel,” said the brother in law. 

The pair then spent the next three hours driving around Patong, including going back to the hotel on Nanai Rd where the family were staying, trying to find Benjamin.

They visited Patong Hospital, but were told that no one with his name had been admitted. Relieved, they returned to the hotel and waited, hoping he would show up soon. 

"They searched around for so long but found nothing. They were really happy when the hospital didn't have his name,” the niece, who did not want to be named, said.

But later, Patong Hospital called the hotel to say Benjamin was in the hospital and was seriously hurt with burns to his upper body.

The family arrived and found him wrapped in bandages. He was conscious, and the family learned that he was able to give hospital staff his name and details of where he was staying, which meant his family could be called.

Since then his scorched throat has swelled up and he's unable to talk, but is able to move his limbs.

"The doctor said these are good signs,” said his niece.

Benjamin's wife was too upset to speak to the media, and his niece said she was “devastated”.

“She's crying a lot, but she's being very strong.

"We are so shocked. We are in a different country, and not our own country. We never imagined we would see him in this state.”

She said Bangkok Hospital Phuket had been excellent, taking very good care of Benjamin, and keeping the family well informed. Benjamin is now in a stable condition.

Thankfully the family are covered by insurance which means Benjamin can be transferred to Bangkok today. His niece said family members in Paris, where Benjamin and most of the other family members live, were waiting to hear more before deciding whether to come to Thailand.

Benjamin's brother in law did not know the three other French people injured in the fire.



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