Property owner charged with homicide for toddler’s fatal fall down borehole

Prosecutors are seeking a three-year prison term against David Serrano for failing to place warning signs near the 28-centimeter hole where Julen Roselló fell on January 13

Property owner David Serrano (c) arriving in court.
Property owner David Serrano (c) arriving in court.Daniel Pérez / EFE

Prosecutors in Málaga, Spain are seeking a three-year prison sentence against the owner of the rural property where a toddler named Julen Roselló died after slipping down a borehole in January. The accident triggered an unprecedented 13-day rescue operation involving over 300 people that was widely covered by international media.

Now the property owner, David Serrano, is facing charges of reckless homicide because he did not cover or place warning signs near the borehole, nor did he alert Julen’s parents about its presence on the day that the family showed up for a Sunday lunch on January 13.

The opening was barely 28 centimeters in diameter but over 100 meters deep, similar to numerous other prospections made by property owners searching for underground water in this dry southern region of Spain.

Two-year-old Julen tumbled down the hole as he was running around the property with another child. Despite a round-the-clock rescue effort involving firefighters, engineers, miners and explosives experts, he was found dead on January 26, deep inside the cavity. The autopsy revealed that he died almost immediately after hitting his head twice against protruding rocks.

Prosecutors hold that Serrano was the only person who knew of the borehole’s existence, and that he failed to foresee the danger for the small children present on the property that day.

The investigation into Julen’s death took into account testimony from around 30 witnesses, including the hikers who first showed up at the scene and called the emergency services, Civil Guard officers, the child’s parents, members of the Asturias Mining Brigade who dug a parallel well in a bid to reach Julen, and the owner of the company that made the borehole.

Meanwhile, the Andalusian government could claim some of the costs of the rescue effort from Serrano. Although many of the companies and professionals participated voluntarily, the operation cost an estimated €700,000.

Andalusian mining authorities are also investigating Serrano and the owner of the perforation company for having made a borehole without applying for the proper licenses first. Sanctions could range between €300,000 and €1 million.

The opening was made on December 17 and 18, 2018 and originally covered with concrete blocks, but these were removed on January 7 or 8, when Serrano conducted measurements on his property.

English version by Susana Urra.

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