Fireworks suspected cause of fatal Arnhem fire; Two boys, 12 & 13, in custody

Politie patch on a Dutch police officer's uniform
Politie patch on a Dutch police officer's uniform. Aug. 20, 2015JoeppoulssenDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

Two pre-teen boys were being held by police Wednesday afternoon in connection with a fire in Arnhem that left two members of a family dead, and two other family members critically injured. Fireworks were being investigated as the cause of the fatal blaze based on security camera footage recovered at the scene, police said.

Police took the two boys, aged 12 and 13, into custody, police said on social media. They are being held on suspicion of causing a fatal arson.

It happened just after the turn of the new year, at about 1 a.m. The fire began in the ground floor hallway of a high-rise apartment building on Gelderseplein.

All four victims were found trapped in an elevator, which shut down as the building lost electricity due to the fire. The father of the family, a 39-year-old man, and his 4-year-old son were killed.

The 36-year-old mother and their 8-year-old daughter were seriously injured. The lift and elevator shaft filled with smoke, rendering the victims unconscious. 

The victims were not residents of the building but visiting an apartment in the building, police said. A portion of the apartment building was evacuated by firefighters, though some residents were allowed to stay in the building.

Several people were rescued from smoke-filled apartments, according to newspaper AD. Firefighters who responded to the incident said they feared they would find more victims.

"The fire alarm went off. Just before that I had heard fireworks, so I thought that was the reason and that it was not too bad. But when I went outside, the hall was full of smoke," one resident told AD.

"It will piss me off if there were actually fireworks in the portico," Vivare housing corporation boss Eric Angenent told RTL Nieuws. He called for an end to selling fireworks to consumers because of the fatal arson at the Arnhem building, a building Vivare manages.

Legal fireworks sales in the Netherlands set a record over the past week. Sales in the country hit 77 million euros.