Tour guide faces criminal charges over 6 deaths in outing accident

Taipei, June 9 (CNA) A tour guide has been charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of six people who died after being swept away in New Taipei’s Beishi Stream during a nature camp outing she took directed in October 2021, prosecutors announced Thursday.

The woman surnamed Su (蘇) was the leader of the group outing organized by a Taipei-based outdoor experience company on October 16 last year, according to a statement released by the district attorney’s office. Keelung.

A total of 28 people participated in the outing, which mainly consisted of walking the historic Hubaotan Trail in New Taipei’s Shuangxi District, including 14 school-age children, each accompanied by a parent.

The cost of the activity was NT$1,600 (US$54.20) per child, with their parents attending the outing free of charge.

According to prosecutors, Su insisted on leading the group on an eco-tour of the trail in upper Beishi Stream 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. that day, the water level of Beishi Stream began to rise, but Su still decided that the group she was leading should continue.

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

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

Prosecutors said Su must have known that a considerable amount of water had accumulated in the upper Beishi stream and there was a chance of a sudden rise in the stream. Despite this, and even after seeing that the stone steps across the river were under water, she still neglected to take a safer route and opted to walk at the back of the group.

According to the statement, there were safe routes further down the creek that did not require the use of stone steps to cross the river.

Su, an experienced guide, 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 opportunities to avoid tragedy, but did not do his due diligence and returned too late.

Given the preponderance of the evidence, the prosecution decided to charge him with negligent homicide under the Penal Code, the statement said.