The Tlalpan school during rescue efforts after the 2017 quake. The Tlalpan school during rescue efforts after the 2017 quake.

Man jailed for 208 years over Mexico City school quake collapse

Juan Mario Velarde had guaranteed the school's structural safety after a renovation

A court has sentenced a man to 208 years in prison for the criminal homicides of 26 people, most of them children, who died when a school collapsed during a powerful earthquake that struck Mexico City in 2017, authorities said on Wednesday.

The Mexico City Attorney General’s Office said it had shown that the man described as the project director had guaranteed the structural safety of the school in Tlalpan, a southern district of the capital, without carrying out the required testing and despite irregularities in construction.

The man, identified in media reports as Juan Mario Velarde Gámez, had signed off on a renovation of the school in which an apartment was added to the roof of one wing. The additional weight was identified as a factor in the building’s collapse.

The court also ordered Velarde to pay 377,450 pesos (US $19,000) to each of the victims’ families.

Nineteen children and seven adults died when the privately owned Enrique Rébsamen school collapsed during the 7.1-magnitude quake, the most deadly in Mexico in a generation. At least 369 people died in the capital and surrounding states.

Mexican prosecutors said at the time they had opened a probe into the potential criminal responsibility of the owner and private inspectors for the collapse.

The owner, Mónica García Villegas, was sentenced last December to 31 years for manslaughter.


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