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Why kin of Kentex fire victims spared ‘scared’ welder

/ 12:12 AM June 21, 2015

The Kentex factory fire in Valenzuela City that killed 72 people was initially traced to a welder who apparently had no safety measures in place while fixing a gate and allowed welding sparks to fall on a stack of highly flammable chemicals.

But survivors and the families who lost their loved ones in the May 13 inferno did not sue the welder because he was just “an ordinary employee who followed orders,” according to their counsel, Remigio Saladero.

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Earlier last week, 12 families represented by Saladero filed a criminal complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and physical injuries against the owners of the footwear factory and the company’s manpower supplier, CJC.

“The welder is just an ordinary employee who does not know much but to follow the orders of the employer. We also pity him, so we focused on the company,” the lawyer explained in an interview.

“Who ordered the welder to do the job? Isn’t it the company?” Saladero said, adding that Kentex management had the “bigger responsibility” in ensuring safety in the factory.

If only the chemicals that were ignited by welding sparks were labeled and properly stored by Kentex, then the fire would not have occurred regardless of any negligence on the part of the welder, who is also a relative of one of the victims, he said.

“If, in its counteraffidavit, Kentex management puts the blame on the welder, then we will be compelled to get his side and make him a witness,’’ Saladero said.

The police has extended protection to the welder after he claimed to have received death threats after the big fire. He has also been assigned a lawyer, John Caluso, by his employer Ace Shutter Corp.

According to Caluso, the welder first asked the factory’s operations manager Josie Ty, if the sacks of chemicals near his work area were flammable. The sacks were then covered with a tarpaulin sheet, he said, and Ty assured the welder that it was safe to proceed. The manager would later be among the fire casualties.

The welder—whose name was withheld by Caluso for security reasons—had done repairs for Kentex several times and had been working for 14 years for Ace Shutters, a Kentex service contractor since the 1990s.

But according to Kentex lawyer Renato Paraiso, leaving out the welder in the complaint against his client may prove to be its weakness. “Maybe the case would be dismissed because the proximate cause (or the direct cause of the injury) would always be the welder in the complaint for reckless imprudence,” Paraiso said.

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Paraiso said Kentex management had talked about suing the welder but deferred action pending the report of the Inter-Agency Anti-Arson Task Force (IATF) which investigated the tragedy. The May 13 fire also killed the son of the factory’s general manager.

He pointed out that during the IATF probe, “no owner or officer of Kentex” was invited to participate or asked for the management’s side.

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TAGS: Fire, Kentex, Valenzuela City
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