Turkish police charge three in mine disaster investigation

By: Matt McGovern Email
By: Matt McGovern Email

TURKEY (NBC) - Three people were arrested on charges of negligence in the Turkish mining disaster that killed 301 people, a prosecutor said Sunday.

The suspects were among 25 people who were taken into custody. Prosecutor Bekir Sahiner said the three were also charged with the crime of causing the death of more than one person. In a news conference in Soma, where the disaster took place, he said six of those detained have been released.

Company executives were among the detained as Turkish officials investigate the mining disaster.

The arrests were the first of the inquiry and came five days after a fire sent deadly carbon monoxide coursing through the mine in the western Turkish town of Soma, causing the county's worst ever industrial accident.

The disaster has sparked protests across Turkey, directed at mine owners accused of ignoring safety for profit, and at Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government, seen as too close to industry bosses and insensitive in its response.

Government and company officials have insisted that the mine was inspected regularly and negligence wasn't a factor in Tuesday's tragedy. But reacting to widespread public anger, government officials promised to investigate and pledged that any mine officials found to be negligent would be punished.

The Milliyet newspaper said Saturday that a preliminary report by a mine safety expert who inspected the Soma mine suggested that smoldering coal caused the mine's roof to collapse. The report said the tunnel's support beams were made of wood, not metal, and the mine had too few carbon monoxide sensors.

Company officials have described safety standards as high, noting that the mine contained 50 gas sensors and employees were provided with gas masks.

On Saturday, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said rescue workers retrieved the bodies of the last two miners missing in the disaster, putting the death toll at 301. Authorities then sealed the mine entrance with bricks.


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