Father demands ‘justice’ from Chinese corporation after son dies in chemical plant accident
Guangdong-based Meida Nylon denies negligence after 24-year-old Feng Zhuobin suffered serious injuries in cooling tower ‘explosion’
A father outraged at the death of his son following an accident at a chemical plant created a storm on Chinese social media this week when he accused the company of negligence and delaying his treatment.
The father published articles on the popular social media platforms WeChat and Weibo on Tuesday under the headline“my son is in Heaven”, contending that his 24-year-old son Feng Zhuobin had died of severe chemical burns because of negligence and mistreatment by his employer, Meida Nylon in Xinhui in the southern province of Guangdong.
The company, listed on the Shenzhen stock market since 1997, produces nylons and filaments used in clothing or packaging.
In a statement released on Tuesday in response to the posts by the older Feng, the company strongly denied that it had delayed treating the injured man or was otherwise negligent, and said that Feng Zhuobin was at least partly responsible for the accident by failing to take proper safety measures.
The father’s posts, which included many graphic photographs of the second-degree burns on the young man’s body, have been widely shared online.
The photos depicted Feng on a hospital bed, his entire body covered with a thin layer of medical gauze, drenched in blood and pus. He was unrecognisable and his face, hands and feet were covered with red and black burns.
According to his father, Feng was sent to check on the company’s extraction tower at 4.30am on May 31 without any protection.
He says the tower “exploded” and 98.5 per cent of Feng’s body was burned by hot water which, according to his father, was 8 per cent caprolactam, a chemical used in the production of nylon.
His father also claimed the company had delayed calling an ambulance.
According documents from Xinhui People’s Hospital which his father published on WeChat, Feng Zhuobin was checked into the hospital at 5.50am. The diagnosis read, “second degree burns on 98 per cent of the body”.
At the hospital, according to the father’s account, a company director told doctors that Feng Zhuobin had been scalded by hot water, but no chemicals were involved.
He was treated at the hospital for six days without any improvement.
On June 6, Feng Zhuobin was transferred to Jiangmen Central Hospital. Documents posted on WeChat state that the attending doctor there diagnosed he was suffering from chemical burns as well as scalding.
On July 2, he was transferred to Guangdong General Hospital in Guangzhou, where he died on July 24.
The father wrote that he believes if Meida Nylon had equipped his son with proper safety gear, sent him to the hospital immediately and told hospital staff the truth about the chemical burns, his son would still be alive.
“To avoid responsibility, cut costs on treatment … Meida Nylon hid the truth after an accident, which directly led to my son’s death, please give us a reasonable explanation as well as compensation,” he wrote.
The father’s account of the death of his son drew wide public attention after the WeChat and Weibo posts were circulated. He published his first Weibo post on Tuesday but has already gained more than 29,000 followers and tens of thousands of shares and comments.
When the South China Morning Post reached the father, who declined to give his full name, on Wednesday afternoon, he sounded tired and his voice was hoarse, close to a whisper. He refused to share any more details, repeatedly saying only that “I trust the government, they’ll solve all my problems for me”.
It was not yet clear whether the authorities were getting involved.
On Tuesday Meida Nylon published a statement calling the accident a work-related injury and denied that the tower had exploded, saying only that it had overflowed. The company also denied the claim that it had delayed calling an ambulance and insisted that it had not hidden the fact that there were chemicals in the water from medical staff.
It said: “The incident with the contraction tower is the first in over 30 years, [since the company opened in 1984]. It happened as an accident but also due to a lack of safety awareness on the victim’s part,” the statement read in part.
It also said that the family had been reported to the police for causing trouble by staging a protest in front of the company offices in which they unveiled banners and burned paper money, a traditional gesture of respect for the dead which is seen as inauspicious when carried out in front of other people.
On Thursday a Meida Nylon employee said the firm could give no further information because lawyers were dealing with the incident. The employee added that the lawyers would release further information when the issue was resolved.
According to Tuesday’s statement, Feng went to check on the water level of the extracting tower, and at 4.29am, he called his supervisor to say that the water was above the emergency level and that there was some overflow.
At about 4.40am, two workers heard Feng yelling and found him injured. The company said the workers had twice called for an ambulance and he was driven to the hospital at 5am.
The statement contended that Feng had not taken the proper safety measures when he found the water was overflowing.
The company added that it had already paid over 2.4 million yuan in medical bills and compensation and discussions about further compensation are ongoing.