Those responsible for the Zaldibar landfill, whose collapse in February 2020 caused the death of workers Joaquín Beltrán and Alberto Sololuze, have agreed with the Prosecutor’s Office and the families of the deceased a prison sentence for reckless homicide, according to ‘El Correo’ . Being a sentence of less than two years and lacking a record, it will allow them not to enter jail. They are José Ignacio Barinaga, owner of Verter Recycling, the management company of the facilities; Arrate Bilbao Barinaga, administrative of the company and niece of the first, and Juan Elosegui, engineer who served as technical manager. In July 2020 they were arrested by the Ertzaintza.
The chronology of Zaldibar: the most important dates since the disappearance of Alberto and Joaquín
As anticipated by elDiario.es/Euskadi, the landfill management company knew of the existence of cracks and did not give them importance. “In landfills it is normal to observe this type of movement,” he interpreted just 24 hours before the avalanche of waste that took the lives of the two workers was unleashed. It was Beltrán himself, “the head of the flattening work contract,” who, according to that report, sounded the alarm. “He reported that on Monday he discovered some changes in different parts of the landfill,” the report can read.
The managers, who in February already paid a bond for their possible responsibility in the death of the two buried workers, will thus avoid jail. They have also been investigated in another court case, in which a Durango court has tried to determine whether the facts constitute a crime against the environment.
18 months after the collapse
The Zaldibar landfill collapsed down the slope on February 6 of last year. Alberto Sololuze and Joaquín Beltrán, who had already warned of the risk of landslides, were buried. The first human remains were found in August last year in the area of the old scale, and DNA tests certified that they belonged to Alberto Sololuze. Later, in October, the Vice-Lehendakari and Security Councilor, Josu Erkoreka, announced that a decisive “phase” was beginning in the search for the second buried body, that of Joaquín Beltrán, since there was a “high percentage” of probability of finding the wreckage in the area the search teams were entering. However, it was not found and on May 14, 2021, seven months later, it was announced that the search was over. On August 31, the Basque Government also concluded the stabilization work and stressed that, since the collapse, it had acted “constantly and uninterruptedly” in the area.
There is evidence that the company did not act despite the alerts. The environmental catastrophe also stripped waste management, since materials containing asbestos were stored in the place, an extreme that was not communicated in the first hours of the search, in which the rescue workers acted without protection. Likewise, the fires in the waste mass generated polluting flows in the region for several days.