Policeman charged for killing five

Updated: 2011-10-31 07:52

By Cao Yin and Xiang Mingchao (China Daily)

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RUNAN, Henan - A police officer held responsible for a road accident that killed five people in Central China has been officially charged, local authorities said Sunday.

Wang Yinpeng, head of the police station in Liangzhu township in Runan county, Henan province, has been charged with "endangering public security by dangerous means" after he lost control of his van and ran into two utility poles in Liangzhu at about 2:40 pm on Saturday.

The poles fell, crushing to death four passers-by and injuring another four, one of whom later died in hospital later.

The eight victims were sitting on the sidewalk near Runan coach station, when the police van crashed into the poles, said a family member of one of the victims, who did not want to be identified.

"I heard the crash and saw a police van stopped nearby with a bumper off. People were lying on the ground in pools of blood," a witness from a restaurant, who refused to give his name, told China Daily.

"Then the van's warning light fell off and lay flashing on the ground."

Wang is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, the county publicity department said in a statement.

The county's public security bureau has launched a special investigation into the tragedy.

Yi Shenghua, a Beijing-based lawyer with Ying Ke Law Firm, said Wang could face the death penalty according to the latest criminal law.

In a similar case in 2009 in Chengdu, Sichuan province, 30-year-old Sun Weiming, a hit-and-run driver without a license, was sentenced to life for endangering public security after he killed four people and injured one in a drunken-driving accident.

Yet, Wang will face a heavier punishment because he was a police officer, said Yi.

"His police identity actually didn't allow him to make such a big mistake," he said.

"His work was to investigate drunk driving, but he appears to have broken this law himself."

Nie Xiaoguang, deputy secretary of Runan county Party committee, told China Daily on Sunday that the local authority will compensate the the three injured people - who are said to be in a stable condition - and the families of the victims.

But Yi said if the tragedy occurred during Wang's working hours, his department should compensate the victims as well.

Yang Xiaonan and Xinhua contributed to this story.