The Colombian Comptroller General Roberto Hoyos Botero rules that negligence caused the fatal explosion of an Ecopetrol pipeline last December.
33 people, including a six-year-old girl, were killed and many homes destroyed when the pipeline ruptured in Dosquebradas, in the central western department of Risaralda.
Ecopetrol had initially claimed the explosion was caused by a thief drilling through the pipeline to steal oil, then later blamed landslides. Hoyas Botero has now placed responsibility firmly on the company, claiming it failed to carry out “timely maintenance.”
The comptroller general rejected the results of an Ecopetrol-commissioned geotechnical study which concluded a landslide had exerted excessive pressure on the pipeline, leading to the rupture.
“No evidence of recent abrupt shifts may be related to the origin of the event,” he said, adding, “What is clear is that the tragedy was not a consequence of the rainy season (…) What happened is attributable to an omission in the timely maintenance of the pipeline.”
State-owned oil company Ecopetrol has rejected these findings, stating that the pipeline’s body, not the solder, was damaged, and that the pipe’s material met international standards. Inspections by Ecopetrol and other companies revealed no defects or damage through corrosion to the pipe, said the oil company.
The investigative body has previously said Ecopetrol’s reponse to the disaster was satisfactory, acknowledging it had admitted a degree of responsibility and offered to cover medical costs and pay compensation to the victims’ families.
President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed in December that victims would be compensated and added that the authorities would assume full responsibility for the rebuilding of the approximately 40 homes destroyed by the explosion and the fire.