Fire under highway caused by oil theft attempt

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Fire under highway caused by oil theft attempt

A fire Monday on the Seoul Ring Expressway was caused by an oil-tanker driver who was putting illegally obtained oil in his tanker under the highway, police said yesterday.

Wonmi Police Station in Bucheon, Gyeonggi, said it has requested an arrest warrant for the 31-year-old driver, surnamed Song, on charges related to setting the fire while trying to transfer the oil. The police also issued warrants to detain container truck manager Park, 49, on suspicion of hiding oil with Song, as well as a parking lot manager, Hwang, 59, on suspicion of buying the stolen oil from Song and Park.

Song became the source of the fire when he was trying to pump gasoline into his truck at an illegal parking lot under the highway at 10:30 p.m. on Monday. Song and Park are suspected of pocketing 100 (26.4 gallons) to 400 liters of oil every week through Song’s oil tanker and selling it to Hwang at a lower price since Sept. 25.

The police found out that the driver made a call to Park on the day of the incident and launched an investigation.

Park has been living in a container box under the highway and managing five oil tankers including Song’s. Park disappeared for three days and was found in Sang-dong, Bucheon, on Thursday by a location-tracing service conducted by police. Park confessed while being interrogated.

No one was reported to be injured in the fire, which caused about 1.3 billion won ($1.1 million) worth of damage. However, police later determined that Song got treatment for second-degree burns. Police were suspicious of Song because he did not report the incident despite being hurt at the scene.

The Korea Expressway Corporation said that it will take at least four months to reconstruct the damaged section of the elevated highway, which 230,000 commuters use on a daily basis. The expressway connects Seoul and its satellite cities, including Incheon and Bucheon, Gyeonggi. Traffic is being detoured around the damaged section.


By Yoo Sun-young [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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