The Hualien District Court on Monday found the proprietor of a leisure sports company and three tour guides guilty of negligence in causing the death of a participant of a “river tracing” event after the four defendants ignored a police warning on the dangers of afternoon thunderstorms and flash floods.
The Hualien District Court handed down a 12-month prison sentence to Tseng Yi-wen (曾義文) for the incident, which resulted in the death of a 46-year-old woman surnamed Huang (黃) in August last year.
Tseng specializes in organizing river tracing events, also known as river trekking or mountain stream climbing, where people negotiate their way upstream, usually in a mountainous region.
An investigation found that Tseng and three guides took a group of 32 people on a corporate outing at Shapotang Stream (砂婆礑溪) in Hualien’s Siulin Township (秀林).
Local police officers forbade the group from going on the trip, citing inclement weather and the possible dangers, but Tseng instructed his guides to take the group to another spot further downstream, bypassing the police checkpoint.
Police Captain Yu Kuo-hua (游國華) said he told Tseng and his group not to go river tracing that afternoon since thick clouds were gathering and it looked like it was going to rain, which it did shortly afterward.
The downpour led to flash floods with water gushing down the stream, scattering the group and leaving many of them floundering in the water.
Although Tseng and the three guides were able swimmers and managed to rescue most of the group, Huang went missing. She was later found drowned after her body became stuck between rocks.
The judge found Tseng and the three guides guilty, as the guidelines of the Chinese Taipei Stream Association say that one guide is required for every six river tracing participants, while more guides are required if the group contains mostly inexperienced people.
The judge also cited the guideline which states that guides should not engage in the activity during storms or heavy rain, because mountainous areas are prone to flash floods.
In related news, a storm on Sunday afternoon triggered a flash flood which trapped eight river tracing enthusiasts in Fongmei Stream (風美溪) in Miaoli County’s Nanchuang Township’s (南庄).
The local fire department dispatched more than 20 firefighters and it took them more than four hours to rescue the eight enthusiasts.
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