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Prosecutors want prison for owner of Dominican recycling plant

Prosecutors in the Dominican Republic have asked for a one-year prison sentence for one of the alleged owners of a plastics recycling facility where a massive explosion and fire claimed several dozen lives.

They also want his wife and daughter, said to be co-owners, to be fined and banned from leaving the Caribbean island while investigations continue.

Edward Armando Vidal Garrido, his wife Maribel Sandoval Almánzar and the couple’s daughter, Mercedes Altagracia Vidal Sandoval, were arrested in a pre-dawn, police raid at their home in the city of San Cristóbal on Aug. 30, two weeks after the Aug. 14 blast.

Fadulia Rosa Rubio, San Cristóbal’s chief prosecutor, has described the explosion as a tragedy and said the Ministerio Público had evidence of “criminal irresponsibility” that had “caused the deaths of dozens of people and provoked [economic] losses running into millions.”

Fellow San Cristóbal prosecutor Laura Segura and a second lawyer, José Guerrero, made the penalty-related applications in court documents deposited with the Tercer Juzgado de la Instrucción del Distrito Judicial de San Cristóbal en función de Oficina Judicial de Servicios de Atención Permanente, the Dominican Republic’s Ministerio Público stated in a communiqué posted on its website Aug. 31.

The mid-afternoon explosion and fire, which prosecutors say occurred at the Vidal Plast srl recycling facility, devastated downtown San Cristobal, 11 miles from the country’s capital, Santo Domingo.

In its latest statement, the Ministerio Público said the death toll had risen to 37. Only 15 bodies had been identified and those had been returned to family members. Another 59 people were seriously injured. At least nine commercial establishments and several homes were destroyed, the ministry added.

Authorities are asking the court to order the suspension of all Vidal Plast activities until the investigation has been completed. They want Vidal’s wife and daughter fined 1 million pesos (US$17,600). They also want the two women to report to them in person once a month.

Prosecutors allege that in March 2023, another fire occurred in the same recycling plant and that corrective measures required to prevent a repeat were not taken.

San Cristóbal’s fire department has said the slow buildup of methane gas and inadequate ventilation may have led to the most recent incident.

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