Qatar’s state-backed fuel company ordered its delivery drivers to conduct more thorough inspections of their customers’ premises following last year’s deadly explosion near Landmark Mall, a Doha court has heard.
Four men are facing negligence charges for their role in last February’s blast at a Turkish restaurant that killed 11 people and injured 35 others.
Their trial resumed today with testimony from the Woqod driver who refilled the restaurant’s 1,000-liter liquid petroleum gas (LPG) tank the morning of the explosion.
He had appeared as a witness at a previous hearing, but was called back by lawyers who were concerned that the court clerk had not fully captured his testimony.
The lawyer defending another Woqod employee – a supervisor who is accused of failing to tell the company’s distribution department to stop the restaurant’s gas supply as maintenance work was carried out there – asked the driver if the gas company had issued any new guidelines to its staff following last year’s explosion.
The driver said employee training has since been stepped up and that managers have issued new guidelines to delivery drivers.
These include a requirement to inspect all tanks on a customer’s property – not just the one that is being refilled – as well as to go inside the premise and ensure that all appliances, tanks and other devices that are part of the gas distribution system conform to safety specifications and standards.
The driver was not asked whether these measures, had they been in place last February, could have prevented the explosion.
An inquiry concluded that the blast – which occurred when the eatery was closed – was caused by a pizza oven at the restaurant that was not properly turned off the previous night, allowing it to leak LPG.
The gas then accumulated in the building and was ignited by the electrical current from the restaurant’s refrigerator.
In addition to the Woqod supervisor, prosecutors have alleged negligence on the part of three other individuals:
- The Qatar Gas supervisor is accused of connecting the restaurant’s new gas line without seeking a safety compliance certificate;
- The restaurant’s baker is alleged to have failed to turn off the gas valve of the oven; and
- The restaurant’s accountant is accused of not checking to make sure all the gas valves in the restaurant were securely closed.
The Woqod driver who appeared in court today was also asked about a safety inspection checklist that he signed the day of the accident.
The man explained his daily procedure, saying it was his assistant who climbed to the restaurant’s roof, where the tank was located, and conducted the visual inspection. The assistant then shouted his observations to the driver on the ground, who would record his co-worker’s findings.
The court was scheduled to hear from a second witness, a Ministry of Interior lieutenant who participated in the investigation and who failed to show up as requested during the previous hearing.
The lieutenant was once again absent today, prompting the judge to order – again – that he be brought in by police to testify at the next hearing, which is scheduled for March 10.
Additionally, the court is scheduled to hear from a Ministry of Interior investigator who signed off on the initial inspection report following the explosion.
The judge also requested that all of the injured victims return to court during the next hearing with documents in Arabic on their medical treatment and disabilities suffered as a result of the blast.