Twelve handed prison terms for gas explosions - Taipei Times
Sat, May 12, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Twelve handed prison terms for gas explosions

GUILTY OF NEGLIGENCE:Two Kaohsiung Sewage System Office technicians were handed the heaviest sentences — four-year, 10-month prison terms

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with CNA

Lawyer Chen Ling-yu, representing LCY Chemical Corp chairman Bowei Lee, speaks at a news conference in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

The Kaohsiung District Court yesterday convicted 12 people of negligence causing death and other charges following a series of gas explosions that rocked Kaohsiung in 2014, handing out sentences ranging from four years to four years and 10 months, including to former LCY Chemical Corp (李長榮化工) chairman Bowei Lee (李謀偉) and local government officials.

The rulings came after three years of questioning and testimony by 510 persons of interest, witnesses, experts and defendants, and involved the efforts of 12 prosecutors, a court statement said.

Lee was given a four-year sentence, while Kaohsiung City Government Secretary-General Chao Chien-chiao (趙建喬) was handed a four-year, 10-month prison term.

It was the first ruling and it can be appealed.

Five LCY Chemical Corp employees, including a plant manager, supervisors and technicians in the control room, were also convicted of the charges and all received a four-year prison sentences.

Three employees of China General Terminal & Distribution Corp (CGTD, 華運倉儲) were also convicted and handed four-year, six-month sentences.

Two Kaohsiung Sewage System Office technicians, Yang Tsung-jen (楊宗仁) and Chiu Ping-wen (邱炳文), were found guilty of professional negligence and received the heaviest sentences, four-year, 10-month prison terms.

The series of underground explosions, which left 32 people dead and 321 injured, began in Kaohsiung’s Lingya (苓雅) and Cianjhen (前鎮) districts on July 31, 2014, following reports of gas leaks earlier that night.

The court found the 12 defendants guilty of negligence relating to leaking propene from underground pipelines that caused the blasts.

Following an investigation, an underground pipeline belonging to LCY was found to be corroded and the cause of the gas leak.

As a result, Lee and the five LCY employees were convicted for their roles in the incident, which prosecutors attributed to their failure to conduct proper maintenance on a regular basis.

Their failure to monitor the process properly also contributed to the explosions, the ruling said.

The court found Chao, who worked as an engineer in the Kaohsiung Sewage System Office when the blasts took place, and the two technicians working under him, guilty of negligence as they had signed off on an inspection of a culvert containing three pipelines without notifying the relevant companies to inspect them.

The extent to which the defendants sought to settle with the victims was a key point for the judges in determining the sentences, as each had sought to blame others and denied any personal responsibility, Chief Judge Yeh Wen-po (葉文博) said.

LCY paid NT$12 million (US$403,050) to the families of each of the 32 people killed in the blasts, a total of NT$384 million, in line with an agreement reached, Yeh said.

CGTD reached a compensation deal with 63 of the 321 people injured and has paid out more than NT$500 million, the court said.

The district court said it had not received any report from the Kaohsiung City Government indicating that it had reached an agreement with victims to compensate them for damage to their property, Yeh added.

Lee’s attorney said Lee would appeal the ruling.

Although the court handed down its ruling, it had failed to determine the “scientific truth” behind the explosions and Lee wants foreign experts to conduct an examination of the available evidence to determine the real reason for the explosions, which he denies were caused by LCY’s pipeline, the attorney added.

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