Suspended sentence for truck driver in Konginkangas disaster
Äänekoski District Court has given the driver of a paper lorry involved in a collision with a bus in Konginkangas over two years ago a suspended prison sentence of three months. In a decision handed down on Wednesday, the driver was found guilty of endangering traffic safety, 23 counts of involuntary manslaughter, and three counts of causing grievous bodily harm.
The court rejected demands for monetary damages from the relatives of the dead, because it found that the accident was not deliberate, nor was it caused by aggravated negligence.
The transport company Transpoint was fined EUR 10,000 for violations of occupational safety legislation. The court decided not to investigate charges against the former managing director of the company, because he had already been fined by Helsinki District Court on a matter related to the same case.
In its decision, the court found that the 42-year-old driver of the heavy truck had endangered traffic safety by driving too fast. In the court’s view, he should have adapted his speed to the prevailing road conditions, the weather, visibility, traffic conditions, and the size and nature of his load.
The worst highway accident in Finnish history took place on the night of March 19th, 2004 on Highway 4 in Konginkangas in the municipality of Äänekoski.
The southbound lorry, with a full load of paper rolls, jackknifed across the highway. The trailer hit an oncoming chartered bus, killing the driver and 22 of the 36 passengers on board.
"Due to excessive speed, the driver lost control of the articulated vehicle" said judge Markku Aalto as he explained the main points of the court’s decision.
The sentence imposed on the driver followed the lines of what the prosecution had asked for. The prosecution would also have wanted the court to convict the managing director of Transpoint of involuntary manslaughter and causing grievous bodily harm.
State Prosecutor Mika Illman is considering appealing the low corporate fine imposed on Transpoint, as well as the court’s decision not to investigate the charges against the managing director.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Defence at Konginkangas bus disaster trial blames crash on icy road and faulty road geometry (26.4.2006)
Konginkangas truck-driver to face charges of causing 23 deaths (8.12.2005)
Excessive speed and driver error seen as causes of collision killing 23 last year (18.11.2005)
At least 23 dead in bus crash in Central Finland (Updated 19.3.2004, 18.30)