Nearly seven years after 49 children perished in a fire in a daycare center in Sonora, a federal judge last night handed out sentences to 19 of 22 people implicated in the blaze.
Sentences ranging from 20 to 29 years were ordered after officials with the Social Security Institute, or IMSS, Civil Protection and others were found criminally responsible for the deaths of the children and injuries to another 40 children and six adults.
There were 142 children in the ABC Daycare Center in Hermosillo on June 5, 2009 when the converted warehouse building caught fire after an explosion in a neighboring warehouse.
Among those implicated and sentenced: the former head of daycare centers at IMSS, who got 29 years; IMSS’ Sonora representative and the legal representative and the secretary to the board of ABC Daycare, 28 years each.
The directors of Civil Protection for both the state and Hermosillo, the fire chief and other fire and municipal officials also got 28-year sentences.
The daycare center had passed a safety inspection the week before the fire, according to information published by Wikipedia. But reports after the blaze revealed that there was only one functioning exit, the fire alarms had been improperly installed and the building’s windows were too high to be used to rescue the children.
In addition, a tarpaulin had been hung as a false ceiling, trapping smoke between it and the roof. Meanwhile, the fire detectors had been installed below the level of the tarp.
The daycare center had been ordered to remove the tarp and install additional fire exits but the work was never done.
The death toll could have been higher if it were not for rescue efforts by citizens outside the building.
A desperate passerby used his pickup truck to punch through the walls and get in. Francisco Manuel López Villaescusa was one of several people who were subsequently awarded Proudly Sonoran medals by the governor at the time for their efforts.
López Villaescusa received a special mention for breaking through the wall and facilitating the rescue of dozens of children.
Among those implicated in the incident were officials at the state Finance Secretariat, owner of the adjacent warehouse where the blaze started. A faulty air conditioner was blamed for the fire.