Freakish accident, death stun city

  • 2004-01-15
  • By Sergei Stepanov
NARVA - A series of unlikely events that led to the bizarre death of a 13-year-old boy has shocked Narva residents and left many wondering about the reconstruction of the city's roads.

At approximately 7 p.m. on Jan. 7 the municipal rescue center received a call that a fire, reportedly started by an electric teapot, had broken out in an apartment in the southern part of town. A team of firefighters rushed to the scene, but when they were about halfway to the destination they received another call informing them that the alarm had just been cancelled.
At the time of the cancellation the fire engine was zooming down Narva avenues, its lights and sirens roaring at full blast. At the corner of Kreenholm and Gerasimov streets the firemen came upon a red light and, as is their prerogative, they bolted through the intersection.
At that instant a taxi happened to be crossing the same intersection, on green, forcing the fire engine driver to swerve to avoid a collision.
But the collision occurred anyway, and as a result the fire engine knocked over a light post located on a pedestrian island in the middle of the avenue.
The light post fell and hit a 13-year-old boy, Viktor, on the head. He died instantly.
"We were shocked," said a representative of the rescue center when workers there learned what happened. "We sent a rescue team and an ambulance car to the place of the tragedy and called the police."
Other casualties included the taxi's passenger and one of the firefighters, both of whom were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
Though tests confirmed both drivers were sober, the police have launched an investigation to determine whether either party is guilty of reckless driving, a charge that could result in up to three years in prison.
It is not clear how long before the collision the driver found out about the alarm cancellation, but existing regulations do provide for personal liability of emergency vehicle drivers.
"The taxi driver did not let us through, and we had to try to dodge it," the fire engine car driver reportedly told the police.
The tragedy was also complicated by the fact that renovations to the Kreenholm-Gerasimov began last summer.
However, Vladimir Lakisov, an expert of the Estonian Road Administration, said the reconstruction project for the Kreenholm-Gerasimov crossing needed amendments before actual repairs started.
"In general the project follows regulations. But reality shows that because of the changing traffic situation the project needs to be revised," he said.
Narva drivers complain that the crossroad has a short turning radius, traffic lights placed inconveniently and no auxiliary traffic lights.
Worse, there was a bump in the road on the spot where the accident occurred. Lakisov said the bump could have made the fire engine jump slightly and hit the fatal post.
The tender to renovate the crossing and other Narva streets was won by Provia, a Tallinn-based company that, according to the local road administration, does not possess the license required to design road construction projects.