Four years on, Zolitūde disaster court case continues

Four years on from Latvia's worst peacetime disaster, legal cases deciding the causes and responsibilities of the tragedy are continuing.

54 people died on November 21, 2013 when the roof of a Maxima supermarket store in the Zolitūde district of Riga collapsed. The dead included rescuers who were trapped when a second cave-in occurred while rescue efforts were underway. Dozens more were injured, some seriously.

The main legal case connected with the disaster began in December 2015 and continues to this day. A total of 263 persons have been named victims in the trial, while 144 have been named witnesses. Ten experts are also participating in the trial. The file of the case spans some 80 volumes. 

Nine persons are accused in the case. Construction engineer Ivars Sergets, architect Andris Kalinka, construction expert Andris Gulbis, construction inspector Mārtiņš Draudiņš and the head of construction at the Re&Re company Staņislavs Kumpiņš have been accusing of violating construction law, along with the charge of manslaughter.

Three representatives of the Rīga construction board - Jānis Balodis, Marika Treija and Aija Meļņikova - have been accused of not fulfilling their official duties, leading to tragic consequences. Inna Šuvajeva, an employee of the Maxima supermarket, has been accused of violating work safety law.

The Riga tragedy was the largest loss of life since the restoration of independence in 1991.

Speaking on Latvian Radio November 21,  Jevgenija Tverjanoviča-Bore, a lawyer representing several dozen of the families affected said that while there was frustration with the slow pace of progress and some doubts that those responsible would be held to account, legal proceedings had to take their full and proper course.

Regīna Ločmele-Luņova, director of the ''Zolitude 21.11'' organization of victims of the disaster said the focus of her members was on finding out where responsibility lies.

"People are interested in concrete answers: 54 people died so who is responsible for it?" said the head of the association, "So far no-one has been found guilty."

Premier Maris Kučinskis told LTV's "Morning Panorama" show he was confident the eventual verdict in the trial would be fair, but that issue is a complicated process, with an unprecedented number of witnesses and plaintiffs so would take a long time.

Meanwhile, as previously reported, Maxima has agreed compensation terms with a number of the families of the dead and injured. 

A memorial service will take place November 21 at the scene of the tragedy.

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