8 suffocated to death in refrigerated van during travel in China


Eight passengers have suffocated to death for their illegal use of a refrigerated van during their travels in Central China's Henan Province.

Photo: Screenshot of a notice released by a joint investigation team of Yexian county, Central China's Henan Province on June 16, 2024.

According to a notice released on Sunday evening by a joint investigation team from Yexian county, Henan Province, a lightweight refrigerated van illegally transported passengers. When the vehicle passed by a town in Yexian county on Saturday night, the driver found that eight people had passed out from suffocation in the back of the vehicle.

Despite the driver's emergency call and all-out rescue efforts by medical personnel, the eight people were confirmed dead as of 3:00 am on Sunday, the notice said.

Xiaoxiang Morning News reported on Monday that the eight victims were all villagers from a town in Yexian county, who worked for a company linked to owner of the vehicle.

Local officials said the victims were between 40 and 50 years old. All of them had children, some of whom were teenagers and some were in college. Officials noted that there are no shuttles from the company where they worked to the village in the evening, leading to the company owner dropping the workers off at a nearby gas station after work, where they then go home themselves, domestic news outlet China Newsweek reported. 

The boxcar of a refrigerated van requires a higher level of air-tightness than normal vehicles due to the retrofitted air-conditioning. If someone in the back of the van knocks on the door, the driver is likely to hear something, but this noise may be limited or muffled, according to the media report. 

"With eight people squeezing in such a small confined space, before long they would pass out from excessive carbon dioxide. During the process, they would feel unusually sleepy and fall into a comatose state," a veteran rescue blogger was quoted as saying in the media report.

For the safety of individuals, it is strictly prohibited for cargo vans to carry passengers and for people to ride in overloaded, over-capacity, or non-commercially operated vehicles, local authorities in multiple places remind. 

Fu Jian, a director from Henan Zejin Law Firm, was quoted as saying in another report by Xiaoxiang Morning News that the driver probably faces a prison sentence up to seven years, as the driver has allegedly violated regulations of carrying people in the van.

The enterprise involved in the incident was negligent in its management, causing the driver to illegally load people with grave results. Therefore, persons in charge of the enterprise may be suspected of committing the crime of major liability accident, the lawyer said.

The driver and related persons in charge have been detained, and the investigation into the specific causes of the incident has begun, according to the investigation team.

Editor: CH


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