Power plant worker indicted in 2020 deaths of four campers

Taipei, The Nantou District Prosecutors Office on Thursday indicted a power plant worker on charges of professional negligence, saying his failure to close a malfunctioning floodgate had resulted in the deaths four campers in September 2020.

According to the indictment, the employee was on duty at Nantou Shuili Taguan Power Plant from 11 p.m. Sept. 12 to 8 a.m. the next day, during which time a floodgate at the plant automatically opened, due to a control system glitch, and four of the six campers who were downstream drowned in the flood.

The floodgate at the plant's No. 6 dam opened at 4:12 a.m. without warning, and at 4:26 a.m. an emergency siren went off when the water in the dam fell to a low level, but even then, the worker seemed unaware of the problem, the indictment indicated.

The worker, surnamed Su (?), took no action until he received a phone call from a resident downstream, who alerted him at 4:27 a.m. that water was rushing from the dam, and Su managed to fully close the floodgate 16 minutes later, the indictment said.

Due to his negligence, 193,440 cubic meters of water was released from the dam, causing a flash flood that killed four campers downstream, according to prosecutors.

In addition to the charge of professional negligence resulting in death, Su was also indicted for making a false entry in the power plant's work log, as he deliberately incorrectly recorded the time when he became aware of the malfunctioning floodgate, prosecutors said.

At the time of the incident, six people from two families were camped at Lishi Creek downstream from the dam, and four of them, including two children, drowned when the water swept through their campsite.

According to prosecutors, Su has already reached a settlement with the families of the deceased.

Meanwhile, Nantou prosecutors said their investigations found that the floodgate had malfunctioned because of deterioration of the electrical insulator in the opening switch.

The state-run Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower), which operates the hydro power plant, did not carry out regular checks of the electrical insulators, prosecutors said.

Since the fatal incident in 2020, Taipower said, it has been carrying out safety checks at all its power plants nationwide in an effort to prevent a recurrence of the problem.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel