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Taiwan chemical company managers receive sentences of four years and more for fatal Kaohsiung explosions

14 May 2018

On May 11, Kaohsiung District Court 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, for negligent homicide caused by the explosions in Kaohsiung nearly four years ago which killed more than 30.

FocusTaiwan said the court found the defendants guilty of negligence relating to the leak of propene from pipelines that caused the blasts.

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. Seven firefighters died in the incident.

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) -- 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.

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

Kaohsiung City government Secretary-General Chao Chien-chiao, 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 said.

LCY has paid out a total of NT$384 million and CGTD more than NT$500 million, the court heard, but the judge said that he had not received any report from Kaohsiung City government indicating it has reached an agreement with victims to compensate them for damage to property.

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

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