Five years marked since deadly Zolitūde supermarket collapse

Take note – story published 5 years and 6 months ago

On November 21, 2013 the greatest loss of life since renewal of independence took place, with the Maxima supermarket collapse in Rīga's Zolitūde neighborhood taking 54 lives and injuring many more. Three rescuers died during the tragedy, and court action has been ongoing for three years. 

While witnesses and the defendants have been interrogated, prosecutors have now asked to change the accusations. It is not yet known in what way, but it does mean that court debate is unlikely to start this year.

The first court meeting in the case was held at an exhibition center in Ķīpsala, because no court hall could house the hundreds of people involved or interested in the case.

Now, nine people face accusations. Five of them are accused of violating construction rules and of manslaughter. A further three officials face accusations for negligence and one defendant is accused for violating work safety guidelines.

Almost 150 court meetings have been held within the past three years. By way of his secretary, judge Erlens Ernstsons told LTV that about 400 people have been interrogated, including 12 experts, victims, witnesses and the accused. 

In parallel to the court proceedings, Maxima Latvija have agreed to pay €100,000 to the victims' families for every person in their family that has died.

Nevertheless the victims and their relatives are unhappy with the slow pace in which the wheels of justice are turning, said lawyer Jevgenija Tverjanoviča-Bore. She represents about 40 victims.

"The outlook is rather gloomy and sad. Very few of the victims believe that they'll see the verdict be passed and that it will be objective against them," she said.

None of the accused have pleaded guilty. Furthermore, the victims still doubt that some of the people potentially at fault have not faced accusations.

For example, there are no representatives of the construction company Vikom Industry, which made the metal framework of the collapsed Maxima store, among the accused; however, the prosecution says the responsible engineer is facing the strongest possible charges. 

Even though the proceedings have lasted for years, Tverjanoviča-Bore does admit that there have been no undue delays for reasons such as illnesses or problems with the attorneys' work. 

The case spans an enormous 81 volumes, which testifies to its great scale and magnitude.

It is possible that as the accusations are modified some witnesses will have to be called to court once again. 

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