The Public Prosecution Service (OM) is prosecuting two companies and their two executives responsible for producing and selling the Stint electric cargo bike “for committing several criminal offenses.” According to the OM, the suspects knew that the Stint – which was explicitly marketed for transporting children – was unsafe and risked countless children’s lives by remaining quiet about it. They are also accused of forging documents to get the vehicle on the road without the due safety checks.
In September 2018, a childcare worker was taking kids to school in a Stint when the vehicle got stuck on a railway crossing in Oss and got hit by a train. Four children died. The childcare worker and another child were seriously injured.
“We recently spoke with the victims and surviving relatives. They think it is very important that an extensive investigation has been carried out and that the suspects must answer to explain our findings and allegations,” the Public Prosecution Service said. “Even almost five years after the accident, the impact of the accident is still great.”
After the accident, the authorities received multiple reports of previous incidents involving Stints. Various authorities investigated the electric cargo bike and found the vehicle unsafe.
In this joint investigation carried out by the Oost-Brabant district police, the Dutch Labor Inspectorate, and experts working for the national office of the police, the OM aimed to determine whether the vehicle was a harmful product as referred to in Article 174 of the Penal Code and whether the suspects knew about the risks and took action to rectify them.
Prosecutors said the investigation showed that the Stint was not safe for many reasons, an assertion they claim is supported by earlier studies. The vehicle was unable to brake quickly enough, did not have emergency brake capability, and battery function deteriorated rapidly, which could cause the Stint to slow down or stall unexpectedly.
The OM said, “the product did not meet the safety requirements in the Machinery Directive” and that it did not comply with regulations regarding electromagnetic compatibility.“
According to the OM, the investigation also showed that the companies and their two executives know about the various defects and associated risks. But they took insufficient action, resulting in many daycare centers across the country continuing to use the unsafe vehicle. “The suspects endangered the safety of Stint users, and they must answer to the court for this.”
The suspects will also be prosecuted for forgery. According to the OM, when applying with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management to designate the Stint as a special moped and allow it on the road, they stated that the Stint met the necessary safety requirements. They explicitly said that the Stint had gone through the CE marking process, while that never happened. Similar claims were made in the Stint manual.
“In addition, the suspects are prosecuted for falsifying their own manual by removing all these references from the manual shortly after the accident in 2018 and sending that amended version to the Ministry and Inspectorate.”
The evidence includes “reports from experts, correspondence between the suspects and customers, but also tapped telephone conversations, the suspects’ own statements, and statements from employees and other witnesses.“
Anyone convicted of knowingly selling a harmful product that leads to someone’s death faces up to 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of 90,000 euros. For failing to disclose that the product was harmful, convicted suspects can serve up to two years in prison when a death is involved, with a fine of up to 22,500 euros. The forgery charge carries a maximum sentence of six years in prison and a fine of up to 90,000 euros.