Care home operator charged with negligent homicide after deadly fire

09/23/2020 11:09 PM
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Nursing home operator (first right) tries to dodge a reporter
Nursing home operator (first right) tries to dodge a reporter's inquiry while walking out of Shihlin District Prosecutors Office. CNA photo Sept. 23, 2020

Taipei, Sept. 23 (CNA) The operator of an unlicensed nursing home in Taipei was charged Wednesday with negligent homicide and endangering public safety, after three people died in a fire that broke out at the facility the previous day.

The 58-year-old woman, surnamed Ting (丁), was questioned by prosecutors, charged and released on bail of NT$300,000 (US$10,305), in the investigation into the deadly fire at the nursing home, which housed three bedridden residents, in the city's Neihu area.

During questioning, Ting said that she was not at the nursing home when the fire broke out at around 2:30 p.m. but had turned off all power sources before leaving the facility, which occupied the basement and ground floor of a four-story building.

She said she did not know what had caused the fire but could recall an incident some time ago, in which one of the three male residents had set fire to his blanket. That fire was immediately doused, she said.

According to investigators, the nursing home became operational about a year ago, when Ting rented the basement and first floor of the building and began taking in residents, charging them a monthly fee of NT$10,000 (US$343)-NT$20,000.

Ting's husband and daughter, who live with her in the building, also helped take care of the residents, investigators said.

When firefighters arrived at the scene of the blaze on Tuesday, the three men residing in the illegal nursing home were found with no vital signs.

A 59-year-old man surnamed Liu (劉) and a 70-year-old man surnamed Chuang (莊) were later pronounced dead at Tri-Service General Hospital.

The third man, a 69-year-old surnamed Chen (陳) who suffered severe burns and was rushed to Taipei City Hospital's Zhongxiao Branch after being rescued from the building, died on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Taipei Deputy Mayor Huang Shan-shan (黃珊珊) said at a news conference Wednesday that officials from the city's health and police departments had previously visited the building in a routine check in the area, but no one had answered the door.

On the outside, the building appeared to be an ordinary residential unit and there was no evidence that a nursing home was being run there or that it posed a fire hazard, Huang said.

Another deputy mayor, Tsai Ping-kun (蔡炳坤), said that various city government agencies will work together to carry out comprehensive inspections of care homes in the city.

According to the Taipei health department, the city had imposed fines of NT$2.02 million in total on unlicensed facilities between 2007 and 2016.

(By Lin Chang-shun, Chen Yi-hsun and Evelyn Kao)

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