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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Distraught Mother Asks Why

For MT

Maria Panova

Maria Panova would have turned 27 on Thursday. But her family and friends bought flowers Wednesday and placed them on her grave, as they buried her in a cemetery near Izmailovsky Park, not far from her home.

There is no cause of death listed on her death certificate.

Her mother, Tatyana Panova, is convinced the cause is linked to how her daughter, a hostage, was treated during the theater evacuation or at City Hospital No. 13, where she was later taken.

"If anybody survived the gas, Masha would have been among them. She was in perfect health and a natural survivor," she said, tears pouring down her cheeks. "She was sitting far from the area where the gas was being released -- in the 20th row or so. There is something strange about her death.

"When I caressed her head, I noticed it was all scratched at the back, like my daughter had been pulled by her feet and her head dragged along the ground. There was a strange dent on the side of her head, like she was struck by a pipe or thrown against something. The gas did not do that; only negligence."

Officials at Hospital No. 13, whose scarce resources were strained by the admittance of more than 300 hostages, did not answer the telephone Thursday.

Tatyana Panova said she searched three days for her daughter. She said she found Maria's name on a list of hostages taken to Hospital No. 13 while waiting with other relatives for news Saturday at a crisis center near the theater. But the list at the hospital had no mention of Maria. She rushed to other hospitals, but Maria was not listed at any of them.

Later that day Tatyana Panova recognized her daughter in hospital footage broadcast on Channel One television, formerly ORT. She was lying on a mattress in a hallway. Tatyana Panova said she missed the hospital's name.

She called Channel One to ask about the hospital and was advised to call the Emergency Situations Ministry, which had provided the footage. The ministry sent her to the rescue services, which said it knew nothing about the footage.

"I asked my district administration to help, and they prepared an appeal," she said. "But ORT said they needed a document from the prosecutors. By then, on Tuesday, we had found her in a morgue."

An Channel One spokesman said he needed more information about the case before he could provide comment.

Tatyana Panova said she and a group of other relatives who had lost loved ones in the raid were considering filing a lawsuit for negligence. She was not sure who might be sued.

"I would have been relieved if they had just located her and let me hold her hand in her last hours. Just to be beside her. To caress her. Why was it all organized in such an inhuman way?"