The car in which two people died after plunging into a sinkhole on the Paso Express. The car in which two people died after plunging into a sinkhole on the Paso Express.

Negligence killed 4 on Cuernavaca highway: rights commission

Paso Express was 'poorly designed and poorly built'

Negligence led to the deaths of four people on the Cuernavaca Paso Express highway, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) charges in a new report.

Two men, a father and son aged 56 and 36, died in July 2017 after their vehicle was trapped in a large sinkhole that appeared just three months after the highway was officially opened.

The Secretariat of Public Administration (SFP) has sanctioned 11 officials — 10 from the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (SCT) and one from the National Water Commission (Conagua) — who were responsible for errors and omissions that led to the formation of the sinkhole.

“The sinkhole was not a mere accident but rather the consequence of a very poorly designed and built public project that was coordinated and supervised by the SCT, [state development bank] Banobras and the four companies involved,” CNDH official Enrique Guadarrama told a press conference yesterday.

The CNDH said that a third victim died before the sinkhole incident “due to the lack of due diligence and risk mitigation where the construction of the Paso Express was being carried out.” The victim riding a motorcycle when he was struck by a loose, high-voltage electrical cable.

The fourth person died after falling off a pedestrian overpass “that had no railings or any type of danger sign,” the CNDH said. The incident occurred after the sinkhole tragedy.

Guadarrama said that at least four witnesses had indicated that the pedestrian bridge was modified due to the construction of the Paso Express and that a provisional mesh barrier was only put in place after the accident occurred.

Laura Treviño, another CNDH official, said the families of the third and fourth victims have not received any compensation nor has anyone been held accountable for the deaths.

The CNDH report, which will be forwarded to the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) for inclusion in its case file, includes in total 15 pieces of evidence “that reveal serious planning and construction shortcomings.”

The rights commission believes that the report, informed by engineering experts and the scientific division of the Federal Police, could lead to more charges against negligent officials.

The CNDH also said the SCT and Banobras had possibly engaged in a “corruption scheme” through the “manipulation” and “fragmentation” of contracts.

Copies of the report will also be sent to the Attorney General’s office in Morelos, the state where the highway is located, the CNDH said.

Public Administration Secretary Arely Gómez González said yesterday that she had not yet received a copy of the CNDH report but declared that the sinkhole case was closed and pointed to the sanctions imposed on officials that bar them from occupying a government position for 10 years.

Communications and Transportation Secretary Gerardo Ruiz Esparza has denied any responsibility for the sinkhole and has not received any sanction.

However, the CNDH accuses Ruiz of lying to the Senate about the causes of the tragedy.

Source: Animal Político (sp) 

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