Sackings, criminal investigation after boys die on Chinese building site

4 boys were killed at a construction site in Yuanyang county, Henan province, on Saturday.
PHOTO: Weibo

The deaths of four boys aged between five and nine at an illegal building site in central China on Saturday are being treated as a criminal offence.

Eight company executives and workers have been detained, two officials have been sacked and a third is under investigation after the children were found buried under mounds of earth in a pit at a housing construction site near their homes in Yuanyang county in Henan province.

Local authorities said the boys were believed to have entered the site through broken fencing. A preliminary investigation suggested they had suffocated after a dump truck emptied its load on top of them.

Statements posted on the county government's website on Monday and Tuesday said the site was operating without a construction permit.

Sun Guoan, chief of the county's housing and urban-rural development bureau, was fired on Tuesday along with the bureau's safety department head.

A senior county law enforcement official is also under investigation.

Eight people, including directors of the property development company and the driver of the truck, were detained on Sunday.

Three of the boys were closely related and all lived in the village next to the building site. Calls to their families on Wednesday were unanswered.

According to a ´╗┐Beijing News report, the children left home at about 4pm on Saturday and were supposed to be playing in the village.

Their bodies were found about an hour later by workers on the construction site, which was separated from the village by steel fencing with several openings, the report said.

It took several hours to retrieve the remains, with the rescue operation concluding by 10pm.

Xinxiang Zhongfu Real Estate was ordered to suspend the project on Wednesday, three days before the incident, for failing to obtain a construction permit.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.