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Court hears debate over subway death

Updated: 2013-08-20 01:51
By Cao Yin ( China Daily)

A controversial case of a young man who died in Beijing’s subway three years ago was heard in court on Monday, but the result is still unknown.

Ma Yue, 21, died after he fell from the platform at the Gulou Dajie station, located in the capital’s Xicheng district on Line 2, on Aug 23, 2010. However, different opinions concerning the cause of his death have complicated the case.

The district’s work safety administration established a special team after the accident to investigate the case, and said Ma died of electrocution after his fall from the platform.

A forensic conclusion from the Chinese Forensic Medicine Association showed no alcohol or drugs in Ma’s blood and no obvious wounds on his body, in accordance with death due to electric shock.

The administration also said the case was not a production-safety accident as there was no electricity leakage on the subway platform.

The district government approved the two investigation results, giving a written administrative reply to the victim’s family in February 2011.

However, Meng Zhaohong, Ma’s mother, doubted the investigation’s result and approval, saying the explanation given for her son’s death was too simple and unclear.

The 50-year-old woman appealed the finding to Beijing No 1 Intermediate People’s Court, hoping to cancel the approval.

At Monday’s court hearing, Meng said that from the authority’s report she did not know how her son fell from the platform and added the subway operation company did not undertake a quick rescue when the incident happened.

“Where the electricity was from and how Ma fell couldn’t be answered in the administration’s report, but that, I think, was the most important thing to make clear about the death,” said Xu Liping, the plaintiff’s lawyer.

The special team was set up one month after the incident, which meant the administration missed the best time for investigation, Xu said, adding the report was therefore unqualified.

A regulation on work safety reports and solutions requires production and operations departments to inform work safety and relevant administrations within one hour after emergencies occur, “but as far as I know, the subway corporation just called the police, which confused me”, Xu added.

Zhao Changhua, representative of the district’s work safety administration, said the authorities started to investigate the case only after they received a petition and had not received a call from the subway company on the day.

Chen Zhiwen, the representative of the subway operation company, said its timely calls to the police and ambulance services should be taken as reports to work safety and relevant governmental departments.

“We also cut off the electricity quickly after the man’s fall,” Chen said.

The plaintiff said the incident happened at 10:47 pm, and Chen said the electricity was cut at 10:52 pm, but the surveillance video from that time is missing.

The Beijing Fayuan Forensic Science Evidence Expertise Center said the video was automatically deleted due to a monitoring system failure.

“Such a system problem didn’t happen only that day but existed all during that month,” Chen added.

Meng questioned that, because video from before and after her son’s fall still exists. “I don’t know why that part was deleted,” she said.

Meng also claimed Ma was shocked while still on the platform and then fell, because some witness testimonies provided by the police said the victim’s body was stiff when he fell.

That suggestion was denied by the work safety administration and the subway company, which said it was impossible electricity could leak onto the platform.

The hearing lasted about six hours, but the court did not deliver a verdict.

Jia Limin, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, said there is little possibility the subway platform could conduct electricity, unless passengers deliberately touched devices at the two ends of the underground passage. Ma was not near the end of the platform.

“People are banned from being at the ends of the subway. If people wait for trains in the middle of the platform, they will be safe,” Jia said. “But I don’t understand why the monitoring video was deleted. It indeed makes people doubt.”

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