Two men indicted over tourist’s death in illegally run hostel

Staff writer, with CNA

Fri, Mar 07, 2014 - Page 5

Two men were on Wednesday indicted on manslaughter charges related to the carbon monoxide poisoning of a Canadian tourist at a hostel in Taipei last year.

The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office said that the tourist, identified only as “Lydia,” died after she was exposed to carbon monoxide leaking from a gas-powered water heater at the hostel in the city’s Daan District (大安) in December last year.

Prosecutors said the facility was actually a rented apartment that was being operated illegally as a small hostel by the two men, surnamed Lin (林) and Ker (柯).

The men were subletting the space at daily rates, prosecutors said.

The men did not have a permit to operate accommodation facilities, according to the indictment, which added that the apartment did not meet structural or fire safety standards, nor was it equipped with a carbon monoxide detector.

Lydia checked into the facility after arriving in the country on Dec. 27 and was found unconscious in her room three days later, on Dec. 30, the day she was due to check out, prosecutors said.

Her room adjoined a balcony where the water heater was mounted — a typical setup in Taipei apartments — but the balcony was completely enclosed, prosecutors said.

In such situations, carbon monoxide, which is produced when gas is not burned properly, can drift indoors because of lack of proper ventilation.

The incident is believed to have occurred in the early hours of Dec. 30 while another guest was taking a shower.

Lydia and several other guests also staying at the apartment were rushed to hospital with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

However, Lydia subsequently died of respiratory failure.