On August 2, 2019, a woman was trapped in an automatic skylight and died. (icon picture)
Two electricians were brought before the criminal court in Basel this Wednesday for negligent manslaughter. They had equipped a roof window in an apartment with an automatic closing function, which became a death trap for a young woman († 28) in 2019.
The public prosecutor accused the electrician of having installed the automatic rain control of the window in 2017 “carelessly, contrary to duty”.
In the indictment, she came to the conclusion that the fatal accident could have been avoided if the accused had exercised their duty of care. The public prosecutor’s office demanded conditional fines for a probationary period of two years for the two.
The verdict was announced on Thursday. The two men were found guilty and given a suspended fine. There is also satisfaction for the victim’s family of 10,000 francs.
“I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart”
The charge of the supervisor is manslaughter by negligence, possibly by omission. The public prosecutor’s office relies on an expert opinion from an inspector from the Federal Heavy Current Inspectorate. He said in court that the initial inspection accompanying the construction of the roof window was incomplete. In front of the rain sensor, the window had no anti-trap protection. However, this was not necessary because the window only moved with the finger on the push button.
“I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart for what happened,” said the accused electrician. His superior also expressed his condolences to the relatives of the woman who died, but asserted that he was not responsible for the accident as the company carrying out the work.
“No breach of duty of care committed”
The defense of the two accused demanded an acquittal. The fitter’s defense attorney said that there was no connection between his client’s craftsmanship and the fatal accident.
“My client has committed no breach of duty of care and is therefore not responsible for the death,” said the lawyer. In his eyes, the safety deficiencies came about when the window was installed in 2013. The architect did not initiate a stop switch.
The supervisor’s defense also played the ball back to the previous construction managers. “It wasn’t my client who decided not to install an anti-trap device in 2013 – and it wasn’t him who decided to install a motor that could have opened a garage door,” said the lawyer.
Prosecutor’s office was not present
Thus, the two suspects would not have created any new dangers, but were merely the last in the chain. In addition, her client pointed out deficiencies in correspondence with the architect, although this was not his area of responsibility.
The defense also raised the question of why the resident did not move away from the window, even though the noise of the automatic window was clearly audible. The public prosecutor’s office was not present at the trial because it is a single-court case and has therefore been granted a dispensation. (SDA/jmh)