Road builders arrested following fatal accident

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Authorities determined to halt sloppy road construction send a strong message to road builders


The road construction site along National Road 51 connecting Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Dong Nai provinces. Police in Dong Nai Province's Long Thanh District have arrested two officials of Licogi 9.2, the road construction company, for careless construction practices which led to the death of a 17-year-old in an accident in January.

Two officials of a road construction company in Dong Nai Province were arrested Wednesday for careless construction practices on National Road 51 that led to the death of Pham Hoai Diem, 17, in January.

Vu Van Truong, 41, head of a construction team and Thai Dinh Vu, 26, project management official of Licogi 9.2 Company, are being investigated for "irresponsibility causing serious consequences." The temporary detainment is expected to last three months, according to police of the province's Long Thanh District.

Nguyen Dinh Truong, chief prosecutor of Long Thanh District, said this was the latest among hundreds of accidents, resulting in almost 50 deaths, since the road construction project was launched in 2009.

The accident occurred at 5:30 a.m. on January 17 when Diem was riding pillion with her mother, Vu Thi Dung, on National Road 51 from Ba Ria-Vung Tau to Dong Nai Province's Bien Hoa Town.

In Dong Nai's Long Thanh District, their motorbike crashed into a concrete block in the middle of the road dividing the new road surface from the old.

The mother suffered minor injuries but her daughter died on the spot after being run over by a truck coming from behind.

Dung said there were no warning signs and she couldn't see the concrete block in the dawning light.

Since the accident, the 49-year-old mother has sold her market stall. "I still feel my daughter is around at home. I stay at home so that her [soul] is not sad," she told Tuoi Tre April 5.

"No compensation is enough; my daughter is dead. But it is important that [the people in charge] be held responsible," she said, adding that the road contractor had not even visited her after the accident.

The project to widen National Road 51 was launched in August 2009, jointly invested by Vietnam Urban and Industrial Zone Development Investment Corporation (IDICO), Song Da Corporation and the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV).

The project's contractor is the Bien Hoa Vung Tau Expressway Development Company, who engaged Licogi 9.2 Company to construct the section where the accident happened. The two arrestees, Truong and Vu, work for Licogi 9.2, a subsidiary of Licogi 9, which was assigned to pave the road surface.

Investigators said that Truong instructed workers to remove steel barriers and warning signs after paving the section, leaving only cordons and posts that stand on small concrete blocks. Diem and her mother crashed into one of these concrete blocks, leading to the girl's death.

Stricter measures

Chief Prosecutor Nguyen Dinh Truong said he has received several complaints, apart from reports of fatal accidents, against unsafe practices at the site since construction began two years ago.

"We have warned the investor twice against negligence threatening traffic safety but accidents have continued. We have considered previous cases but didn't have enough evidence to press charges against the contractor," he said.

Lawyer Nguyen Van Hau said that criminal investigation into this accident is a "good sign" that the authorities are more determined to tackle traffic safety cases.

"There are clear regulations about dealing with such cases. The authorities have now begun to enforce these strictly," he told Thanh Nien Weekly.

Based on the degree of violations, the offenders can be charged with "violating regulations in construction, maintenance and repair of roads," "obstructing traffic," and "irresponsible actions causing serious consequences" in the Penal Codes.

"Project investors should also be investigated for their responsibility in the case," Hau added.

Lawyer Truong Xuan Tam of the Ba Ria-Vung Tau Bar Association said that judicial agencies in Dong Nai should set an example by strictly punishing the culprits in the case.

A December conference on traffic safety in Hanoi reported that 11,449 people were killed and 10,663 others were injured in 14,442 traffic accidents last year.

Compared to the previous year, the number of accidents increased by 1,788 in 2010. The latest death toll means 31 people die in road accidents every day.

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