LG Polymers Managing Director and CEO, Sunkey Jeong and Technical Director D.S. Kim were among 12 officials of the company arrested by Visakhapatnam police on Tuesday, in connection with the styrene gas leak tragedy that left 15 dead and hundreds hospitalised in May this year.
Assistant Commissioner of Police, R.V.S.N. Murthy, who is also the investigation officer, said the accused were booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
They were also booked under Indian Penal Code”s Sections 278 (Making atmosphere noxious to health), 284 (Negligent conduct with respect to poisonous substance), 285 (Negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter), 337 (Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 338 (Causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) read with section 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention).
The gas leak from LG Polymers plant on the intervening night of May 6 and 7 affected Venkatapuram and five other villages.
According to police, while 12 people died on May 7 and 8, three more villagers succumbed on May 25 and afterwards. A total of 34 animals also died in the incident.
The development comes a day after the High Powered Committee (HPC) submitted its probe report to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.
The HPC probe report had listed several lapses on the part of the LG Polymers management, which led to the styrene gas leakage.
The other accused arrested on Tuesday are LG Polymers” and Additional Director (Operations) P.P. Chandra Mohan Rao, HOD, SMH (in-charge) K. Srinivas Kiran Kumar, team leader production Raju Satyanarayana, engineers C. Chandrasekhar, K. Gowri Sankara Nagendra Ramu, K. Chakrapani, operator Muddu Rajesh, night duty officer (operations) P. Balaji, incharge GPPS S. Atchyut and safety officer in night shift K. Venkata Narasimha Ramesh Patnaik.
According to the investigating official, the investigations disclosed that the incident at M6 styrene storage tank took place due to negligence of the accused who were also having knowledge that their acts are likely to cause death.
“The investigations so far made disclosed that the accident occurred to the poor design of M6 Tank, inadequate refrigeration and cooling system, absence of circulation systems, inadequate measurement parameters, weak safety protocol, poor safety awareness, inadequate risk assessment and response, poor management, slackness of management, insufficient knowledge amongst staff, insufficient understanding of the chemical properties of styrene, especially during storage under idle conditions and total breakdown of the emergency response procedures,” the police said.
Meanwhile, in a related development in the case, the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) suspended environmental engineers R. Lakshmi Naryana and P. Prasada Rao for negligence.
Acting on the report of the HPC, APPCB suspended Prasada Rao, environmental engineer, regional office, Visakhapatnam, for gross negligence in allowing operation of LG Polymers without environmental clearance, allowing import and storage of huge quantity of styrene without verifying safety and environmental issues. Lakshmi Narayana, environmental engineer, zonal office, Visakhapatnam, was also suspended on the same charges.