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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Latvia Minister Quits Over Tragedy

Latvia's interior minister resigned Monday in the aftermath of a freakish accident at a firefighting exhibition where a crane collapsed, killing eight children.


The minister, Dainis Turlais, offered his resignation to Prime Minister Andris Skele, who accepted it, Itar-Tass reported. The government declared Monday a national day of mourning over the accident.


The cause of the accident, which occurred Saturday, is still being investigated, but Deputy Prime Minister Anatolijs Gorbunovs said it appeared firefighters had breached elementary safety rules.


"Such unprecedented irresponsibility cannot continue and it has to be punished,'' the Baltic News Service quoted Gorbunovs as saying.


The two drivers of the truck were arrested, Itar-Tass said, and the chief of the Talsi fire department was suspended.


The accident occurred in the western Latvian town of Talsi, where children were invited to take a ride in the hydraulic-powered basket of a fire truck. Thirty people crowded into the basket, which was designed to carry 350 kilograms, the Baltic News Service said.


The basket was nearly 20 meters in the air when its crane tipped, causing the basket to crash to the ground. Eight children ages 5 to 16 died at the scene. Another 22 people, including three adults, were hospitalized in Talsi and Riga.


"We are at a loss to express our grief and feeling of guilt to the victims," President Guntis Ulmanis said in a condolence message to the families of the dead children.


The prime minister cut short a vacation in Britain and returned home to oversee the investigation.