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San Juan Hotel Fined $527,400, Assailed on Safety in Fatal Fire

May 15, 1987|United Press International

WASHINGTON — The Dupont Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was fined more than half a million dollars Thursday and accused of numerous safety violations in the New Year's Eve arson that killed 97 people.

The hotel-casino operators were accused of violating the commonwealth's health and safety standards and were fined $527,400, the largest penalty ever proposed by a state or commonwealth, said John Pendergrass, head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"The Puerto Rico investigation shows the apparent violation of safety and health standards contributed to the magnitude of this disaster. I fully support the strong action taken in this case by Puerto Rican authorities," Pendergrass said.

The hotel has 15 days to contest the citations and proposed penalties.

Locked Exits

The oceanside resort was fined $440,000 for 44 instances of willful violations, including locked exits and blocked passageways, and $86,900 for 15 serious violations. Another $500 was imposed for a record-keeping violation.

Willful violations are defined as those the employer knew were violations or hazardous conditions and made no reasonable effort to eliminate, OSHA said.

Serious violations are ones the employer knew or should have known about that could cause death or serious physical harm.

The citations and penalties were announced simultaneously by the Puerto Rico Occupational Safety and Health Office in San Juan and OSHA in Washington.

The fire started in the hotel ballroom on Dec. 31, 1986, and quickly swept through the lobby and casino, trapping scores of holiday players at the gambling tables.

Three former hotel employees have pleaded guilty to arson.

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