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Four employees sentenced over deadly 2017 gas explosion in Austria

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By Euronews  with AFP
Steam rises after an explosion occurred in a gas station near Baumgarten an der March.
Steam rises after an explosion occurred in a gas station near Baumgarten an der March.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Ronald Zak, File

Four employees at the Baumgarten natural gas station in Austria have been given 10-month suspended prison sentences over a deadly gas explosion in 2017.

The suspects were found guilty of negligence over the gas terminal blast, which killed one person and injured dozens of others.

The four people had "failed to comply with their safety obligations," the regional court in Korneuburg said on Wednesday.

Bilfinger Bohr & Rohrtechnik -- the subcontracting company that was working on the large terminal in Baumgarten -- was also fined €125,000 and given a suspended sentence. Eight other defendants were acquitted in the trial.

The explosion in December 2017 disrupted gas supplies to several countries and caused an estimated €50 million in material damage near the Austrian border with Slovakia.

Investigators found that the blast occurred after a fire at the Baumgarten terminal, one of the main distribution centres in Central Europe for gas arriving from Russia.

A 32-year-old TÜV technician was killed, while 22 other people were injured.

The incident took place just one day after the installation of a new tank, which prosecutors say had not been reinstalled correctly.

According to prosecutors, the subcontractor had also failed to properly dismantle a device for filtering moisture in gas pipes at another site in Austria.

Three of the casualties received €600 in symbolic compensation, while the family of the victim will be reimbursed for funeral expenses, the court said.