City Hall Official Charged Over Water Park Disaster

A high-ranking City Hall official was charged with criminal negligence Wednesday in connection with the Transvaal water park disaster in February of last year, which killed 28 people. He could face up to seven years in prison if found guilty.

Anatoly Voronin, head of Moscow State Expertise, or Mosgosekspertisa, did not take necessary measures to ensure the safety of Transvaal's design, the Moscow City Prosecutor's Office said in a statement Wednesday. Moscow State Enterprise was set up to monitor the quality of construction in the city.

On Feb. 14, 2004, the glass roof of Transvaal water park in southwestern Moscow collapsed, killing 28 and injuring over 100 people.

Voronin had sanctioned using concrete in the frame supporting the roof, rather than aluminum as had originally been planned, the prosecutor's office said.

The charges against Voronin mean that the city of Moscow -- and not only the water park owners -- is partially to blame for the tragedy, said lawyer Igor Trunov, who represents the families of Transvaal victims.

"It means that City Hall officials and Moscow government bear responsibility for the tragedy -- both monetary and criminal. Nothing in this city can be built without obtaining a permit from the City Hall," he said. Previously, the only body successfully sued for compensation over Transvaal was Evropeiskie Tekhnologii i Servis, Transvaal's parent company.

Voronin was released Wednesday on the condition that he not leave the country.

He is not the first to be charged in relation with the Transvaal disaster. In April, Nodar Kancheli, the architect who designed Transvaal's glass dome, was charged with manslaughter after an official inquiry found that design flaws were responsible for the tragedy.

Kancheli has repeatedly denied responsibility for the collapse, saying that the tragedy may have been the result of a terrorist attack and pointing to security tape footage that showed a dust cloud bursting from one of the columns supporting the roof right before the entire structure came down.

The terrorist version has, however, been dismissed by investigators from the beginning because of lack of evidence.