Mexico City: criminal charges brought in subway collapse

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico City prosecutors announced Thursday they will bring criminal charges shortly against “several people and companies” for construction and design defects that caused an elevated subway line to collapse in May, killing 26 people.

Ernestina Godoy, the city attorney general, said studies found that constuction defects like poor welds and missing connection studs caused the collapse. She said bad design also played a role.

Godoy did not identfy those who will face charges of homicide, causing injury and damages.

But in the case of the companies involved, Godoy said the goal of the criminal charges will aimed at making them pay for or repair damages both to the subway and the victims. Criminal charges against individuals could apparently result in prison sentences for them.

The results of the prosecutors’ report are similar to, but a bit broader than, the conclusions presented by the private Norwegian certification firm DNV in September.

Both reports cited poorly welded, badly located and completely missing studs that were intended to join steel support beams to a concrete layer supporting the track bed.

But the prosecutors also cited bad welds in steel beams underlying the concrete track bed that either failed to adhere or split. Steel struts intended to stiffen the metal beams were too short or not properly attached, and elevated line was not designed with enough of a safety margin.

The defects distorted the train line’s framework, leading to “fatigue cracks” that reduced the structure’s ability to bear weight.

The $1.3 billion Line 12 of Mexico City’s metro system was built between 2010 and 2012 when current Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard was the capital’s mayor. Ebrard is seen as one of the likely contenders to succeed President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The project was plagued by cost overruns and alleged design flaws, corruption and conflicts of interest.

The city was forced to close the line in 2014, just 17 months after it was inaugurated, so tracks could be replaced or repaired. The section that collapsed has remained closed since May.

Some companies involved in the original construction have since argued that heavier ballast and other changes and repairs over the years may have added too much weight to the elevated line, or that it might have been weakened by Mexico City’s frequent earthquakes.

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