Expert testimony heard during gas blast trial

Istanbul accident

Nada Badawi

With reporting from Riham Sheble

Three government fire experts and one Woqod supervisor have testified in a lower criminal court in Doha this week about the events leading up to a gas explosion in February that killed 11 people and injured 42 others.

There are four men on trial for what happened, and all have plead not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter, involuntary/accidental harm, and the damaging of property belonging to others.

One of the defendants is a foreman for Woqod (an Indian expat), one is a supervisor for the Qatar Gas Group (an expat from Egypt), and two others are Turkish employees who worked for Istanbul Restaurant, where the blast originated.

All were jailed following the blast, but have been released on their own recognizance pending the verdict.

The judge presiding over the case, Abdullah Al Emadi, asked journalists who attended the marathon court hearing on Wednesday to not disclose all the details of the testimony, to avoid influencing other witnesses who are expected to be called during subsequent hearings.

What happened

The explosion took place inside of a petrol station complex in Duhail (near Landmark Mall) on Feb. 27. The petrol station remains closed today, but several businesses have begun opening their doors.

Istanbul Restaurant was closed and vacant at the time of the accident, and the majority of those killed and injured were eating at the nearby Tasty eatery.

The witnesses who testified this week included forensic fire experts. They went over in detail a report that included some of the conclusions about the blast that Civil Defense has already shared with the public.

That included details to support the fact that the explosion was caused by a pizza oven whose gas had been left on at Istanbul restaurant.

The LPG was apparently ignited by a spark from a nearby refrigerator inside the eatery.

The findings implicate several of the defendants, highlighting maintenance mistakes by the Qatar Gas Group, a Woqod contractor with no relation to the state-backed LNG producer; and the failure to turn off the gas valve by Istanbul’s employees.

Injured seek compensation

During the last session earlier this month, the judge asked those injured in the blast to present medical certificates about their physical state.

Some 17 individuals showed up, representing themselves and relatives, submitting paperwork in Arabic to prove the extent of their injuries. Several sought compensation for their cars.

Blast

Peter Kovessy

However, there was no translator available for Nepalese and Filipino individuals, so they were asked to return to court later in the week to file their grievances.

The trial will resume on June 5. Attorneys have requested that CCTV footage and phone calls that took place between some of the defendants be aired at this hearing.

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