Company doctors testify within Turkish mine disaster trial

Doctors employed by mining company testify that they never recorded carbon monoxide poisoning at Soma mine before 2014 tragedy, which killed 301 miners

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Families of victims arrive at Akhisar Court in Turkey's western Manisa province on Feb 16, 2016.

The trial into Turkey’s deadliest mining disaster continued on Tuesday, hearing testimony from doctors employed by the mining company involved in the tragedy.

An explosion started a fire 2,000 meters below the surface and filled the Soma mine, operated by Soma Komur Mining Company, with toxic gas. Most of the deaths at the mine were due to carbon monoxide gas poisoning according to an official autopsy report released November 2014. 

The disaster claimed the lives of 301 people in the western town of Soma. It has been asserted that the disaster was the worst mining accident in the world in 40 years, and the 19th worst in world history.

During the hearing at Akhisar Court in Turkey's western Manisa province, corporate doctors said that they had not faced carbon monoxide poisoning cases at the facility before the disaster.

Mine workers generally saw doctors for complaints related to heavy lifting and seasonal illnesses, Mehmet Serdar Ayanoglu, one of the corporate doctors, testified.

“No health units in Soma [district] informed us that our workers were identified with such a diagnosis [carbon monoxide poisoning] before,” said Caner Soyer, another corporate doctor, who was coordinating the company’s medics.

Families of victims reject testimonies

Relatives of the victims in court rejected their testimonies, saying that workers had undergone carbon monoxide treatment before.

In total, 46 people are facing a range of charges connected to the disaster.

Families of the dead miners accuse the company of prioritising production over safety, of carrying out insufficient inspections and operating under an inadequate legal safety framework.

Eight people, including two senior workers, are standing trial on charges of first-degree murder and could each face 20 to 25 years in prison if convicted on each of the 301 counts against them.

They are also facing 162 separate counts of "causing aggravated injury" which each carries a possible two-to-six year jail sentence.

The other 38 defendants, who were released pending trial, may also face 2-to-15 years in jail for “causing multiple deaths and injuries through negligence."

TRTWorld, AA