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Charges filed against Mexico hotel personnel for blast

CANCUN, Mexico – Prosecutors in Mexico say they have filed charges against five contractors and employees at a Caribbean coast hotel where a Nov. 14 explosion killed five Canadian tourists and two Mexicans.

Rodolfo Garcia Pliego, the assistant attorney general of Quintana Roo state, where the hotel is located, said investigators found an unauthorized extension of a gas line under the hotel lounge where the blast occurred.

Rodolfo Garcia Pliego says the gas line at the 676-room Grand Riviera Princess resort in Playa del Carmen, south of Cancun, was not reported to authorities, and not properly installed or maintained.

The charges against the five announced range from homicide and causing injuries, to professional or technical misconduct, charges that presumably apply to the installers.

Officials had earlier blamed an accumulation of swamp or sewage gas, but later determined the line was the cause.

The five Canadians killed in the blast were Malcolm Johnson of Nanaimo; Chris Charmont of Drumheller, Alta., and his nine-year-old son, John; Darlene Ferguson, 51, of Edmonton; Elgin Barron of Guelph, Ont. Eighteen others, many of them from Ontario, were injured.

Johnson, 33, was a member of the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association and president Bill Carter says he’s been missed. “It was so senseless, really. Whenever a young person with so much talent is lost senselessly, it really, really hurts everybody,” sums up Carter.

Johnson was in Mexico for his destination wedding and died just five days after he was married.

A Mexican hotel bartender and a guard also died.

Garcia Pliego said Monday the charges were filed Friday and that prosecutors have requested arrest warrants for the suspects.

A leak from the heating-gas line, apparently meant to fuel a pool heating unit, may have been set off by a spark from an electric switch or plug.

_ With files from The Canadian Press.