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Intern charged in probe into deadly China tunnel collapse

Chinese authorities have named a construction intern as possibly criminally responsible for a pipe system collapse that killed three construction workers.

Wang Nianpu, a trainee working as a quality inspector, was one of three people named in an investigation report as responsible for the December collapse along a main road in central Jinan city.

The report, seen by Business Insider, was filed in early May but went viral after local media reported the matter over the weekend.

The workers were killed in a tunnel that collapsed because a steel support beam was missing. An excavator was plowing the ground at the entrance, causing steel sheets inside the trench to fall and crush the trio.

As a result, dozens of local government officials, Wang’s senior colleagues and bosses face fines, warnings or formal reprimands.

Only Wang, a technician and a site supervisor have been named in a criminal investigation.

The report pointed the finger at Wang, saying he was “primarily responsible for the accident” and that he had previously been detained but released on bail while awaiting trial.

But it wasn’t his role as quality inspector that got him into trouble.

According to the investigation by the Jinan Emergency Management Bureau, Wang’s supervisors discovered a safety hazard in the tunnel on Dec. 28 and signed a stop-work order for the next day.

Wang was tasked with delivering the order to construction crews on Dec. 29, but was unable to do so due to “personal reasons,” according to the report.

Authorities said the tunnel collapsed the next day.

The report found that work in the trench violated regulations and recommended a $151,000 fine for a Qingdao branch of PowerChina Construction, which oversaw the site.

It is not clear who Wang’s direct employer was. PowerChina Construction is a state-owned company and worked on the project with several subcontractors, including Chengda Lighting Engineering and Hengxin Construction Supervision.

Wang’s case went viral on Weibo, the Chinese version of X, on Tuesday, becoming the top search topic on the platform for several hours, according to data seen by BI.

“I’m shocked. This type of accident is blamed on the person with the lowest salary?” » wrote one Weibo user. “You’re asking him to take primary responsibility when he can’t even sit at the table for meals.”

“It’s no longer a joke to say that interns have to take on important responsibilities. It’s a fact,” writes another.

Local media outlet Red Star News, citing experts in the work of law firms in Beijing and Hunan, wrote that “intern status should not be a prerequisite for a person to be exempt from criminal sanctions.”

businessinsider

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