The developer of Carina Plaza apartments faces trial for allegedly failing to comply with safety regulations that resulted in a fire which killed 13 people in 2018.
Ho Chi Minh City prosecutors have charged Nguyen Van Tung, 45, former director of Hung Thanh Company, the main developer, and Nguyen Quoc Tuan, head of the apartment management, with “violating regulations on fire prevention and fighting,” which carries a jail term of seven to 12 years.
Investigators found the fire started at around 1:15 a.m. on March 23, 2018, from a scooter in the building’s basement parking lot, and spread for over 13 minutes without any alert when residents were asleep.
The fire alarms did not go off, the automatic sprinklers in the building failed to deploy and the emergency lights did not come on. All fire doors in the building had also been wedged open with bricks, allowing smoke to billow up to houses, causing most of the deaths.
Police said the fire could have been put out with a small extinguisher if there had been someone on guard at the time.
Tung, who lived on the first floor, was among more than 90 people injured and hospitalized.
He was recently dismissed as head of the company. Prior to his arrest, he had refused to cooperate with the investigators, citing health issues, the police said.
Prosecutors said the management of the building had already informed Tung that the automatic fire alarm did not work, but he did not fix it.
“Tung’s conduct violated fire safety regulations, which required him to have personnel, means, plans, and other conditions in place to fight fires,” the indictment said.
As the head of the building management, Tuan was fully aware of the situation but did not fulfill his responsibility or firmly demand that the developer should replace or repair the safety systems, it said.
Keeping the doors open, which caused smoke to go to the upper floors, leading to many asphyxiation deaths, was also the management’s responsibility, it said.
During questioning, Tung and Tuan pleaded guilty to all the accusations.
The fire also injured 72 people and burned down more than 500 motorbikes and 81 cars.
Hung Thanh Company has paid compensation of VND120 billion to vehicle owners and families of the victims. In some cases, the two sides have yet to reach an agreement.
It has taken four years to bring the case to court since there were many “legal problems,” prosecutors said.
In 2019 investigators had to briefly stop their work to wait for damage assessment.
They resumed at the end of last year, but no conclusion has been reached about the losses.
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