Ex-LCY chairman sentenced to 4 years for Kaohsiung explosions

2018/05/11 19:00:01 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
CNA file photo

CNA file photo

Kaohsiung, May 11 (CNA) Kaohsiung District Court on Friday handed down jail terms ranging from four years to four years and 10 months to 12 defendants, including ex-LCY Chemical Corp. chairman Bowei Lee (李謀偉), for negligent homicide caused by multiple explosions in Kaohsiung nearly four years ago.

The series of underground explosions, which left 32 dead and 321 injured, occurred in downtown Cianjhen and Lingya districts of the city on July 31, 2014, following reports of gas leaks earlier that night.

It was the worst-ever public safety disaster in Kaohsiung City, in which seven firefighters perished.

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

Following an investigation, an underground pipe belonging to LCY was found to be corroded and the cause of the gas leak. As a result, Lee and five other LCY employees received four- year jail terms for their roles in the incident, which prosecutors attributed to their failure to conduct proper maintenance work on a regular basis, the ruling said.

In addition, three technicians from China General Terminal & Distribution Corp (CGTD, 華運倉儲) -- a logistics partner of LCY -- received four years and six months for failing to properly monitor the flow of propene and turn off supply when they received indications something was wrong with the pipelines earlier that night, according to the ruling.

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

Kaohsiung City government Secretary-General Chao Chien-chiao (趙建喬), who served as an engineer in the city's Sewage System Office when the blasts took place, and two other municipal engineers were sentenced to four years and 10 months for negligence after signing off on an inspection of the 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 handed down, as each one sought to blame others and denied any personal responsibility, Chief Judge Yeh Wen-po (葉文博) said.

According to Yeh, LCY paid NT$12 million (nearly US$400,000) to the families of each of the 32 killed in the blasts, paying a total of NT$384 million in line with an agreement reached.

While CGTD has reached a compensation deal with 63 of the 321 injured people and has paid out more than NT$500 million, the court said that it has not received any report from Kaohsiung City government indicating it has reached an agreement with victims to compensate them for damage to property, Yeh noted.

The verdict can be appealed.

Meanwhile, former LCY Chairman Bowei Lee will appeal the ruling, his attorney said.

Although the court has handed down its ruling, it had failed to determine the "scientific truth" behind the explosions and Lee wanted 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.

(By Cheng Chi-feng and Flor Wang)

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