Survivor recounts Riga supermarket tragedy

  • 2013-11-23
  • From wire reports, RIGA

British pilot Paul Tribble was inside the Maxima store when the roof caved in on Thursday, Nov. 21 night. He told BBC News how he escaped, 

Here's an extract from the interview.

"My partner Elizabeth and I were doing some grocery shopping after work.

I was standing in the toilet-roll aisle when there was a loud crash going on somewhere behind us followed a split second later by what sounded like an explosion.

At the same time as the "explosion" the lights went out and we were plunged into darkness.

I was taken down by an aisle [shelving] falling on me, which skimmed my shoulder and forced me to the ground, but I was still able to move.

"I did think we might not get out of there in one piece ”

"I got up and because Elizabeth and I know the store very well, we tried to make our way in the darkness to the entrance to leave, but then an air conditioning unit fell down about 20 or 30 ft in front of us, so we turned in the other direction.

"There were torrents of water coming down off the roof. We headed into the back of the supermarket, the aisles were covered in produce and concrete and people lying on the floor.

"We went out of the loading bay exit and were one of the last group of people to leave the store.

"When we came out into the loading bay there were hundreds of other people out there too. We waited for the emergency services to arrive, which they did, en masse.

"The store would have been packed when we were inside. When we arrived there were no trolleys or shopping baskets left and I had to go to the checkout and ask for one that another customer had just finished unloading.

When the air conditioning duct fell down, I did think we might not get out of there in one piece, but somehow, apart from lots of small cuts and bruises we are OK.

Elizabeth has hurt her ankle but we consider ourselves to be one of the lucky ones. When we crawled and climbed out, you couldn't see the checkout area at all, it was buried under so much rubble.

We live round the corner from the store, about a two-minute walk so we just went back home after that.

For the past few weeks we have been watching a crane loading sand and building materials on to the roof. When we came out there was an awful lot of sand about, which is where we think the weak point of the roof was.

I just can't get over the amount of water that came down. It's been raining solidly for about three days here and judging by the amount of water pouring off the roof, I can only think it had no way to drain and that's what contributed to the roof coming down."