Fireworks fatal fire: Community service demanded for New Year's drama
Prosecutors did not recommended jail time for two teenage boys they said were responsible for causing the deaths of a father and son on New Year's Day after setting off fireworks inside an Arnhem apartment block. Instead, a lack of intent and their young age makes a guilty verdict with a sentence of up to 60 hours of community service more appropriate, the District Public Prosecutor's Office East Netherlands (OM) announced on Tuesday. The pair did not foresee that their actions would claim the lives of other people, the prosecution said, adding that the consequences of the incident are "very likely to last for a long time".
The OM argued that the boys, who had been 12 and 13 years old at the time of the incident, were found to have set off fireworks in the entrance to the lobby of a high-rise building on the Gelderseplein in Arnhem at around 1 a.m. on New Year's Day. The fire grew quickly, according to police reports at the time, subsuming the lobby and causing a father, mother, and their two children to be trapped in an elevator when the power went off in the building.
After the elevator shaft filled up with smoke, the 39-year-old father and his 4-year-old son suffocated. The 36-year-old mother and the 8-year-old daughter were critically injured in the incident, but recovered in hospital shortly after.
The OM said the court should order the young boys, who were arrested by police on Jan 3, into a youth rehabilitation program and adhere to several conditions attached to their release. "The public prosecutor has sought to strike a balance between the interests of the victims and survivors, of society and of the suspects," the OM said in a statement. "The fire caused unimaginable suffering to those involved. The next of kin expressed this suffering in an impactful way when they exercised their right to speak during the hearing. The fire also had a major impact on local residents and emergency workers."
On Tuesday, the OM maintained the position that though the boys did not intend to set a fire, they committed arson with a deliberate explosion that resulted in death. A verdict in the case will be rendered on June 29, along with a sentence if the suspects are found guilty.