Sun, Oct 01, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Three jailed for deadly missile blunder

NEGLIGENCE:The missile was mistakenly launched from a corvette docked at a naval base in Kaohsiung during what was supposed to be a simulated test

Staff Writer, with CNA

Taiwan Kaohsiung District Court Division Chief Judge Yeh Wen-po speaks at a news conference in Kaohsiung yesterday.

Photo: Huang Chien-hua, Taipei Times

The Kaohsiung District Court yesterday sentenced three naval officers to prison terms ranging from 14 months to two years over the mistaken launch of a missile that killed a fishing boat captain and injured three others in waters off Penghu County last year.

The officers were convicted on charges of causing death by negligence, the court said in its ruling.

Petty Officer Second Class Kao Chia-chun (高嘉駿), who fired the Hsiung Feng III anti-ship missile on July 1 last year, was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Kao’s supervisor, Chief Petty Officer Chen Ming-hsiu (陳銘修), was sentenced to two years, while Lieutenant Junior Grade Hsu Po-wei (許博為), who was in charge of weapons on the Chinchiang-class corvette, was jailed for 14 months.

The locally developed missile was mistakenly launched from the corvette docked at a naval base in Kaohsiung during what was supposed to be a simulated test.

The missile traveled northwest and ripped through the fishing boat Hsiang Li Sheng 40 nautical miles (74km) off Penghu, killing its captain, Huang Wen-chung (黃文忠), and injuring Huang’s son and two migrant workers on board.

On the morning of July 1, Chen requested four “fuse” safety connectors from Hsu to simulate a missile launch, the court said.

Hsu agreed to Chen’s request, even though he should have known that only two of the Hsiung Feng III missiles on the corvette had test and training sets (TTS) installed and only two safety connectors were needed for the test, it said.

After obtaining the connectors, Chen ordered his subordinates to link them to the four Hsiung Feng III missiles, even though he knew that two of the missiles did not have TTS on them, the court added.

After completing a missile circuit test, Chen did not notice that the missile control system was set to “combat mode” instead of “training mode,” it said.

He then left the war room for five to seven minutes, leaving Kao alone in the room simulating the missile launch procedure, it added.

Kao did not notice that two of the missiles were in “live-fire” mode and pressed the launch button for the No. 3 missile, the court said.

The missile traveled for about two minutes before reaching waters near Penghu, where it automatically searched for a target and ripped through the fishing boat.

Kao admitted to his negligence after the incident, while Chen and Hsu denied any wrongdoing, the court said in its verdict.

When asked why Kao received a lighter sentence, judge Yeh Wen-po (葉文博) said the degree of Chen’s negligence was more severe and he has refused to admit any wrongdoing, leading to the heavier sentence.

Huang Wen-chung’s family received state compensation of more than NT$30 million (US$989,936 at the current exchange rate) following the incident and reached a settlement with the Ministry of National Defense.

The Navy Command Headquarters yesterday released a statement saying that it respects the court’s ruling and would provide legal assistance to the officers.

Kao’s lawyer said Kao will decide whether to appeal after receiving the official verdict.

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