Shortly before the weekend in March, an excavator rammed a natural gas pipeline during sewerage work in Dürnkrut, Lower Austria. The workers did not notify EVN. As a result of the explosion, which destroyed a house two days later, a woman died of severe burns. The foreman on duty was now in court. The verdict is not final.
“Mr. B. is also a human being. He faces criminal charges here, but he doesn’t have to cringe. It is not in the spirit of the proceedings that he is being morally reproached,” Judge Monika Zbiral of the Korneuburg District Court interrupted the representative of the private parties after accusing the accused of being “too flippant”.
Gas has entered apartment building
The reason that brought Mr. B. to court is tragic. On March 11, he was responsible foreman at the construction site in Dürnkrut (Lower Austria) where an excavator hit a gas pipe in the ground during sewer excavation work. Two days later, a devastating explosion occurred at a nearby house, where the leaked gas had entered. A 66-year-old resident initially reacted after the blast, but died on April 27 due to severe burns.
“Due to the obvious damage, the suspect should have called EVN as per the rules,” the prosecutor explained why the 53-year-old is charged with murder by gross negligence – threatened with a prison term of up to three years.
“Unfortunately it was a mistake”
“After the incident with the excavator, we checked the area several times. The pipe was bent but we saw no crack. We didn’t smell anything or hear any hissing either,” the trained bricklayer replied, admitting the facts. I assumed we were lucky and nothing happened. Unfortunately that was a mistake,” he said, as the gas did not escape where it was hit, but at a tee about ten feet away.
“We are guaranteed to be on site within an hour,” said an EVN expert called as a witness. “An employee would also have carried out measurements on the adjacent luminaire, i.e. the branch point.” – unfortunately this did not happen on March 11th.
Eight months and a fine
Mrs. Rat sentenced the suspect – not legally binding – to a suspended prison sentence of eight months and a fine of 5,400 euros. It was Friday afternoon and the workers wanted to go home. “If they had called EVN, it could have taken hours,” the judge explains the gross negligence. Mr B. still has to prepare for civil proceedings.