An electric bicycle vendor in New Taipei City has been indicted on charges of negligent homicide, after an investigation into the death of an elderly woman who was seriously injured when a lithium-ion battery exploded under the seat of a tricycle she was riding earlier this year.
According to the investigation by the New Taipei District Prosecutor’s Office, a man named Chen purchased an electric tricycle from a vendor at the Chongxin Bridge Flea Market in Sanchong District on December 25, 2022. Chen bought the vehicle as a mobility aid for his elderly mother.
On January 3, 2023, the 83-year-old woman, named Pan, was sitting on the tricycle and had just started it when the battery exploded and caught fire. Pan suffered burn injuries to 35% of her body, concentrated on the legs and lower body. Chen and his wife also suffered burn injuries while rescuing Pan.
Pan was rushed to hospital, but died 27 days later. Her death was attributed to severe burns to both buttocks and legs, and a urinary tract infection which led to complications of pneumonia, nephritis, and cystitis.
The investigation found that the vendor who sold the electric bicycle, also named Chen, had purchased the batteries from the Chinese e-commerce site, Taobao. Police seized five batteries from Chen’s residence, and investigators from the fire department determined that the lithium batteries had a high probability of igniting due to a short circuit.
Chen argued in his defense that Pan was old and sick, and her death was not necessarily caused by the accident. Chen reached a settlement with the victim’s family, and the family withdrew accusations of negligent death. However, prosecutors determined that the death of Pan was caused by the vendor’s sale of untested lithium batteries of unknown origin. Therefore prosecutors charged Chen on suspicion of negligent homicide.
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