Sentence confirmed for aide convicted in hospital fire

The man said responsible for killing 19 persons in the Hospital Calderón Gaurdia fire July 12, 2005, will serve just 20 years. That was the decision of the Sala III high criminal court that upheld a new sentence levied on the man, Juan Carlos Ledezma Sánchez.

Ledezma Sánchez orginally got a sentence of 50 years in the fire that destroyed the surgical recovery wing of the hospital. The Poder Judicial noted that he had been sentenced on a charge of murder. But the Sala III reclassified the crime as arson and ordered a new sentence. The trial court then gave a sentence of 20 years, and it was this sentence that was upheld by the Sala III this week, according to the Poder Judcial.

Witnesses testified that they had seen Ledezma Sánchez, a nurse’s aide, near the storage room where the fire is presumed to have originated. The blaze swept through the surgical recovery wing and even killed two nurses as they tried to evacuate patients.

Ledezma Sánchez was convicted even though fire investigators said they could not find a specific cause for the blaze. An alternate theory advanced at the time of the tragedy was that the ballast of a light fixture had ignited combustible material in the storeroom.

Ledezma never testified in his own defense. He also made no statement. One of the victims of the blaze never has been identified. He is believed to have been a vagrant who sought a place to sleep in the hospital.

Calderón Guardia had been plagued by small fires until the early morning tragedy. The fire showed that the hospital did not have adequate safety measures in place.

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