Of the 46 rooms at Hotel Arpit Palace in Karol Bagh, at least 10 rooms did not have windows, revealed the Crime Branch investigation into the fire at the premises that killed 17 people.
The Crime Branch’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) Thursday re-visited the hotel and found that three-four rooms on each floor did not have windows. “These rooms are in the centre of the hotel and do not have windows… this contributed to the casualty numbers, as some suffocated to death inside their rooms on Tuesday morning. The rooms in the front and back had windows,” said a police officer who was part of the investigating team.
The officer said lack of windows in the central rooms was a “safety hazard”.
Hotel general manager Rajendra Kumar (47) and assistant manager Vikas Kumar (21), who were arrested in connection with the case, were taken to the spot as well.
“During questioning, Vikas said he was at the reception when a guest from room 109 called to say a fire had broken out. He and supervisor Lal Chand rushed to the room to extinguish it. By then, the pillows and bedsheets caught fire and it quickly spread. The two managed to rescue the couple in the room,” said the officer.
The forensic expert who visited room 109 told investigators that the “fire started in the room, probably due to the air-conditioner switched on by the couple due to lack of ventilation. As it is winter, the AC was probably not serviced and there was a short-circuit, which led to the fire”.
Police also found that after Vikas called the fire department at 4.35 am, he called the owner’s elder brother, Shardendu Goel, and asked him to come at the spot. “Shardendu said he would reach the spot in a few minutes. Half an hour later, his phone was switched off,” a police officer said.
On Thursday, police issued a lookout circular (LOC) against Shardendu and his brother Rakesh Goel, who is in Doha. Additional CP (crime) Rajiv Ranjan said, “We have issued an LOC against the brothers and a search is on to nab them.”
DCP (central) M S Randhawa had said, “So far, we have found that all licences of the hotel were Shardendu’s name, who is absconding. The manager told us Rakesh had gone to Doha for vacation.”
Police said before he left for Doha, Rakesh visited the hotel on February 9 and promised Vikas that he would increase his salary when he returned. “Vikas joined the hotel last year, after completing a course in hotel management… He was getting paid Rs 16,000,” the officer said.