Guide charged after six dead in flooded river

NEGLECT:
The tour guide was aware of the bad weather forecast and did not lead the group on a safer route when the trail was already flooded, prosecutors said.

A tour guide has been charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of six people who were swept into New Taipei City’s (北勢溪) Beishi River during an outing to a nature camp she led in October last year, prosecutors said Thursday.

The woman, surnamed Su (蘇), was leading the outing organized by a Taipei-based outdoor experience company on Oct. 16, according to a statement released by the Keelung District Prosecutor’s Office.

Twenty-eight people participated in the outing, which mainly consisted of walking the historic Hubaotan Trail in New Taipei City’s Shuangsi (雙溪) district, including 14 elementary school children, each accompanied by a parent.

The activity cost NT$1,600 per child, with their parents attending the outing free of charge.

Prosecutors said Su insisted on leading the group on an eco-tour of the trail in the upper reaches of the Beishi River around 2 p.m. that day, even though there were clear signs of bad weather at the time. .

Su was aware that heavy downpours were expected this afternoon due to strong northeast winds and that rainfall in the northern part of Taiwan was likely to become heavier later in the day, the statement said.

Around 3:30 p.m., the water level of the Beishi River began to rise, but Su decided that the group she was leading should continue.

At 4 p.m., amid torrential rain and water pooling in many areas along the trail, Su decided the group needed to turn back.

However, the trail was already flooded and members of the group had to help each other through the water, according to the statement.

Prosecutors said Su must have known that a considerable amount of water had accumulated in the upper reaches of the Beishi River and there was a risk of a sudden rise in the water level.

Despite this, and even after seeing that the stone steps across the river were under water, she ignored the need to take a safer route and opted to walk at the back of the group.

According to the release, there were safe routes downstream that did not require the use of stone steps to cross the river.

Su, an experienced tour leader, had a good understanding of the environment and terrain and was familiar with the route conditions along the trail, meaning her decision not to lead the group on a safer route was negligent , prosecutors said.

As a result, two adults and four children were swept into the river and died, the statement said.

Su had several chances to avoid the incident, but did not exercise due diligence and returned too late, he added.

Given the preponderance of the evidence, the prosecutor’s office decided to charge him with negligent homicide under the Penal Code, the statement said.

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