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18-month sentence for man that sublet flats in building devastated by gas explosion

A court in Antwerp has sentenced the tenant of a building in the city in which 2 people died in a gas explosion in 2018 to 18 months imprisonment, half of which suspended. A further 27 people were injured in the explosion at the building on the Paardenmarkt that the tenant sub-let to others. He was also ordered to pay compensation amounting to 2.5 million euro. The explosion was caused by an accumulation of gas that had come about due to an old gas meter in the building. 

Now three and a half years after the devastating explosion the court has found the tenant responsible for what happened on the evening of Monday 15 January 2018. Little remained of the building after the explosion. 

Two people, a 39-year-old Belgian and a 26-year-old Afghan lost their lives. The Afghan had applied for asylum in Belgium and was here legally. 

Lives could have been saved

The official tenant of the house, a man in his 50s from the East Flemish town of Sint-Niklaas, was found guilty of undeliberately causing death and grievous bodily harm due to him having paid little attention to the issues with gas that had existed in the building. “He sub-let the building as studio flats that were in a dilapidated state”, the court was told.

During the trial the tenant claimed that others had tampered with the gas meter. He believed that one of the people he sublet to, a person that was renovating a restaurant on the ground floor of the building, to have been responsible for the issues with the gas meter.

For this reason, the tenant had the person to whom he sub-let the ground floor and the owner of building summonsed. He asked for himself to be acquitted. 

However, the court thought differently and all the people to whom the flats were sublet and the gas engineer that was responsible checking the safety of the gas supply in the building were all acquitted. The court ruled that despite his negligence having made him responsible for what happened, “the tenant never acted deliberately and never wanted this to happen”.

He was given the sentence that had been requested by the prosecution: 18 months imprisonment, half of which suspended. He was also ordered to pay a total of 2.5 million euro in compensation to the victims and their families. 

Some of this sum will come from the man’s insurers, who were also convicted by the court. It is as not yet clear whether an appeal will be lodged. 

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