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  HOME | Central America

Death Toll in Panama Reformatory Fire Rises to 3

PANAMA CITY – A third teenager who was in grave condition from burns he suffered last weekend in a reformatory fire outside Panama City has died, Dr. Elias Garcia Mallorca said.

The physician told reporters that the death of Jose Frias, 17, occurred Friday afternoon due to the extensive burns he suffered.

Garcia Mallorca, the medical director of the public Santo Tomas Hospital, said that the physical condition of the other five minors who were in the blaze is “delicate.”

Earlier Friday it was announced that Benjamin Mojica, 16, had died Thursday night in the intensive care unit at Santo Tomas Hospital, where all the teens were taken who had been burned in the fire at the reformatory in the town of Tocumen outside this capital.

The first fatality of the fire, which broke out while a riot was going on, was Erick Alexis Batista, 16, who died Tuesday when several of his vital organs failed.

The teenagers, who rioted Jan. 9 in their cells to demand better food and drinking water, were victims of a fire that was started inside the confinement center and whose causes are being investigated by the authorities.

The National Police, or PN, announced Thursday the suspension of two units involved in the confused incident that was caught on TV as the teens were burning alive while reformatory guards, police and firefighters looked on.

The PN communique said that the two police units will remain suspended until investigations are concluded and it can be rejected or confirmed that they took part in the incident.

Public Safety Minister Jose Raul Mulino said Wednesday that he has signed an order to withdraw all members of the National Police from the country’s penal centers in a period of six months.

The National Police has been the chief supervisor of the nation’s prisons, a situation that has been criticized by civil and human rights organizations, which have excoriated the miserable conditions and overcrowding of these centers, as well as the physical mistreatment of those in custody.
 

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