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Jul 28, 2003

Cahal Pech nightspot burns to ground

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If you’ve ever wondered why insurance companies don’t like to write policies on thatched roofed buildings, tonight’s lead story should provide convincing proof. The fire at the Cahal Pech Entertainment Centre overlooking the twin towns of Cayo was nothing short of spectacular. Patrick Jones reports from the scene.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

The building erupted in flames around two-thirty on Saturday morning and within minutes what was the Cahal Pech Entertainment Centre was reduced to a pile of rubble.

Gilroy Nicholas, O.I.C., San Ignacio Police

“The fire started at the south-eastern end of the building. We found a cigarette lighter about ten feet away from the building.”

But a cigarette lighter alone does not make for a convincing case. Nicholas says that working quickly, his team of investigators were able to connect the dots and within less than an hour after the building burnt, they had a suspect in custody.

Gilroy Nicholas

“I do not believe in trying my cases in the media, but what I can say is that the evidence that we have, we are quite certain that we have the correct person.”

Patrick Jones

“Based only on a cigarette lighter?”

Gilroy Nicholas

“No, not based on that, other circumstances lead us. What happened, the man that we have, he was out of the nightclub three times by the security because he could not pay to get inside of the business establishment. Thereafter he left, and shortly after, our investigation revealed that the fire started.”

The man police picked up walking away from the scene of the fire is twenty-nine year old Rosendo Requeña, a resident of the Stann Creek Valley Road. According to Nicholas, Requeña had been ejected from the nightclub by security at least three times prior to the incident. He was picked up as he walked on Buena Vista Street in San Ignacio Town. For Chairman of Cahal Pech Limited, which owned the nigh club, Rene Villanueva, it wasn’t the kind of phone call he was expecting to wake up to on Saturday.

Rene Villanueva, Chairman, Cahal Pech Limited

“We found the place completely destroyed. It was hard to believe that a place where so many people went for enjoyment and entertainment was destroyed in the form that Cahal Pech was destroyed by fire. Lucky for us, no one was injured in the incident.”

The full extent of the damage is still being calculated. But with the band that was playing already claiming twelve thousand dollars in lost equipment, the estimate would put the cost of the fire well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Rene Villanueva

“Difficult to establish, because the entire Cahal Pech complex was bought out by the company Cahal Pech Limited from the Development Finance Corporation at total cost of one point three mullion dollars. That figure covered the Cahal Pech nightclub, which is what was totally destroyed. It also covered an unfinished three storey building right next to the nightclub and nine cabanas at the foot of the nightclub and about one a something acres worth of land on which all this sits on. So I need to meet with the Development Finance Corporation, which we have a meeting set for this afternoon, to establish what exactly the nightclub section of it was insured for.”

Conflicting reports put the number of people inside the nightclub at the time of fire between seventy-five and two hundred. Whatever the figure, Villanueva says that if it turns out that the building was deliberately burnt down with that many people inside, it’s a scary thought.

Rene Villanueva

“Well it must be a sick mind if that is so Patrick. I can only say that must be a sick mind that would risk the lives of people inside a nightclub by setting it afire. One can only recall the disastrous fire in the United States at a nightclub that caused the death of so many people. They were taking out bodies out of this nightclub afterwards, so to go and deliberately light a nightclub fire is something bad.”

Patrick Jones

“Requeña was taken to the Magistrate’s Court this morning where he was formally read the charged of arson, an indictable offence that will be tried in the Supreme Court. He was offered, but could not meet bail of ten thousand dollars and is now on remand at the Hattieville Prison until his next court appearance on September second. In San Ignacio, Patrick Jones, for News 5.”

The fire has left twenty-five people without a job. Besides the club, the flames also damaged Love FM’s radio transmission facility located nearby.

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