Three men were crushed to death on Tuesday evening when marble countertops weighing more than 500 kg fell on them as they unloaded a shipping container at a workshop in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, officials and a witness said Wednesday.
Sao Bunna, 32; Hat Ratha, 25; and Thorng Bora, 29, did occasional work for Chinese-owned marble importer Xin Yong Thai and were unloading a shipment with several other men on Tuesday when about 10 marble slabs that had been stacked against the wall of the container fell on one of the three, who called for help as he struggled to push it upright, according to fellow laborer Sok Pov, 25.
The two other victims then came to his aid, Mr. Pov said.
“The three tried to push, but it was too heavy and it fell on them and killed them immediately,” he said. “I was shocked, and I and the others tried to smash the marble [with a sledgehammer] but they were already gone.”
Mr. Pov said that Xin Yong Thai hired 11 laborers for a night’s work once every month or two, paying the group $120 in total.
Cheng Si Ping, the owner of the company, and Zhou Miao Han, who police say is a friend of the owner, were arrested shortly after the accident and remain in custody at the Sen Sok police station, according to district governor Ly Saveth.
“I have ordered them to stop operating until compensation is organized,” Mr. Saveth said, adding that he visited the workshop in Toek Thla commune on Tuesday night, and found it lacked the necessary safety equipment and tools to move marble.
“I think they need to face court,” he said of the owner and his friend, adding that specialists should have been hired for the job.
District police chief Mok Hong declined to comment.
When a reporter visited the workshop Wednesday, the only person present was a woman who identified herself only as Ms. Zheng, a translator for Mr. Ping, the owner.
Ms. Zheng said her boss chose to recruit unskilled day laborers out of kindness.
“There are experts to do this work, but the owner prefers to hire these men so that he can help them make a living,” she said.