Taiwan color party organizer receives maximum 5 years for deadly blast

Appeals are still possible

The scene at the Formosa Fun Coast park after the June 27, 2015 explosion.

The scene at the Formosa Fun Coast park after the June 27, 2015 explosion. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The organizer of a color powder party which turned into a deadly inferno at a New Taipei City amusement park in 2015 received the maximum prison sentence of five years Tuesday.

A total of 15 people died and almost 500 were injured when the colored corn starch powder thrown over the mostly young public to imitate India’s Holi Festival ignited at the “Color Play Asia” party on June 27, 2015.

An investigation showed that the heat from lights at the Formosa Fun Coast amusement park (八仙樂園) in the Bali District had caused the powder to catch fire and explode. Most of the fatalities occurred over several months after the blast, as victims in hospital succumbed to their injuries.

The Taiwan High Court on Tuesday changed the district court prison sentence of four years and ten months for organizer Lu Chung-chi (呂忠吉) to the maximum possible of five years, with a fine of NT$90,000 (US$3,000). Lu was not in court to hear the verdict, while appeals were still possible.

The Shilin District Prosecutors Office has approved a total of NT$290 million (US$9.7 million) in compensation payments for victims and their families, with a further NT$200 million (US$6.7 million) expected to follow. However, since Lu reportedly possesses no assets, he will not be able to pay compensation, leaving the authorities, thus the taxpayers, to foot the bill, the Apple Daily reported.

The High Court ruled that even though Lu knew the powder was flammable, he had not told the staff so, failing to warn them or stop them from throwing out the powder close to hot lights.

The judges also defended the longer prison sentence by pointing at the condition of 23 people who had been regarded as only slightly injured. In fact, burns had covered at least 20 percent of their body and had resulted in some of them being unable to stand for any length of time, or causing problems with sweating, the Central News Agency reported.

Five years might seem like a short sentence to some, but it was the maximum allowed under the law in this case, the court argued.

Relatives of victims were reportedly unimpressed with the verdict, saying even a life sentence would not bring their loved ones back.