Five individuals were found guilty of “negligent homicide” and handed five-year sentences after 115 residents of a housing complex in Tainan died when an earthquake hit the southern city in February, according to a Tainan District Court ruling Friday.
The defendants were also fined NT$90,000 (US$2,824) each, the ruling said. The case can be appealed.
A five-year sentence is the maximum punishment for “genocide through professional negligence.”
The defendants include Lin Ming-hui (林明輝), owner of Weiguan Corporation, which built the Weiguan Jinlong housing complex in 1993. The complex collapsed following a magnitude 6.4 earthquake on Feb. 6, killing 115 and injuring about 100 residents.
The four others defendants — responsible for designing and building the housing units — were Hung Han-hsien (洪汗仙), manager of the construction company’s design department; Cheng Tung-hsu (鄭東旭), contracted structural engineer for the project; architects Cheng Chin-kui (鄭進貴) and Chang Kui-pao (張魁寶).
An investigation into the case found it to be poorly-designed and built using shoddy work and inferior materials, in an attempt to save on construction costs.
Investigators found that in order to cut costs, Lin ordered Hung to minimize the cost of design work during the planning stage and then to use less than the required reinforcement for beam column joints. Hung was even instructed to reduce the size of some pillars to further cut costs.
Investigators found that Cheng Tung-hsu failed to factor in the weight of some of the pillars and beams, reducing the building’s net load-bearing capacity by 44.3 percent and quake resistance by 16.3 percent.
Meanwhile, Cheng Chin-kui and Chang Kui-pao helped the company acquire construction certification and other documents without properly supervising the design work, the investigation found.
The combination of negligence and cost cutting led directly to the collapse of the building on Feb. 6 and resulting loss of life, the investigation found.
Several family members of the victims were in court to hear the ruling, but were unhappy with the judgment.
Reading a joint statement on behalf of the families, Lee Su-tui (李肅椊) said the ruling was “unacceptable” and asked why no city government officials had been punished.
They certified the building as safe, said Lee, whose brother had his left leg amputated as a result of the building collapse.
In response to the ruling, Tainan City government said that “justice has been served.”
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel