Nine years since Zolitūde tragedy claimed 54 lives

Take note – story published 1 year and 5 months ago

Monday, November 21, marks nine years since the tragedy when the roof of the Maxima supermarket in the Zolitūde district of Rīga caved in, claiming the lives of 54 people.

267 people were recognized as victims in the devastating accident. The long-running court case that resulted has still not been fully closed.

The court judgment was one of the most extensive in the history of Latvia, spanning more than 1,200 pages. The court found one person guilty, acquitting the other eight defendants. 

The court started hearing the Zolitūde case in December 2015, two years after the tragedy happened. It took the judges nine months to prepare a full court ruling on the Zolitūde tragedy. The court decision says that the building construction engineer Ivars Sergets violated construction norms, as a result of which the supermarket "Maxima" collapsed. He was convicted of homicide by negligence by the court.  The building that collapsed had previously won architectural awards and was notable for a garden constructed on the roof.

The victims and their representatives were dissatisfied with the court's decision and hoped for a fairer trial. The judgment was immediately appealed, notably, both by the victim side and the prosecution. In early November 2021, the Rīga District court started reviewing the appealed case. The court debate ended only on November 8, 2022. On January 10, 2023, the accused will be given the final word.

The victims and their loved ones will not forget the day. Latvian Radio asked people on the streets whether they remembered what happened on November 21, 2013.

"Well, the roof was falling in. Nine [dead] or how many. I don't know...don't remember."

"The roof collapsed, and many people died."

"I watched the news but did not go in depth."

"What is it – November 21? I don't remember."

"Yes, oh God. I remember the day very clearly. I was at home and I remember watching the live coverage all day. It was reported all the time that another person had been found, yet another. I think it was 54 altogether."

"What do we remember? All that the media reported – the suffering, confusion, evading responsibility in the aftermath and the like. What it all has turned into is a farce.  Legal responsibility on one or two people. All others go paws up and don't know anything. Paper mountains, lengthy court action. It all usually leads to an absurd. Just a tragedy within the family where people are lost. Bigger trouble comes, and this is forgotten. Nine years have passed. I think people are simply mourning by themselves."

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