Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Transvaal Study Says Plans Not Followed

The city official charged with criminal negligence over the Transvaal water park tragedy has attempted to clear his name by presenting an independent expert committee's finding that he was not to blame.

Anatoly Voronin, who could face up to seven years in prison if found guilty when the case finally goes to court, presented the committee's report last week at a news conference together with Alexei Vorontsov, the vice president of the Russian Architects' Union.

The report says that Mosgosekspertiza, or Moscow State Expertise, the body headed by Voronin that inspects construction plans for quality, had fulfilled all of its obligations in reviewing the plans and issuing approval and thus was not responsible for the disaster.

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

The other person charged in connection with the collapse was Nodar Kancheli, the architect who designed the roof. Kancheli has repeatedly denied responsibility for the collapse, saying that the tragedy may have been a terrorist attack.

The Russian Academy of Architecture and Construction Sciences, which evaluated Moscow State Expertise's actions with regard to Transvaal, found that the plan approved by the agency had been amended and that change could have led to the collapse. Attention was drawn to these modifications only after the disaster. The depth of the foundation, the structure of the dome and the type of steel used to build support columns did not correspond to the approved design. Also, the sagging of the roof was not studied well enough to guarantee the safety of the building, the committee said in a statement.

At the news conference, Voronin said his office learned the construction was already underway as they prepared the approval. He said data about the construction parameters were presented to Moscow State Expertise, but that his office was not responsible for checking its authenticity.

The committee that evaluated Moscow State Expertise's work also complained about a lack of scientific research in construction, leading to outdated norms and technical regulations. At the news conference, Voronin said that Moscow State Expertise had to refer people to old regulations, which he called illegitimate.

On the sidelines of the news conference, Vorontsov added that because of understaffing it was "physically impossible" for the experts at Moscow State Expertise to oversee all the projects in the city. In its statement, the independent committee put the number of employees at 200 and the number of projects reviewed annually at about 4,000.

Architect Boris Leviant, the head of company ABD, said few construction projects in Moscow were carried out according to plan because investors or developers cut corners in order to reduce costs. The majority of Moscow architects have been in situations in which their original solutions are ignored, he said.

"Developers who follow the plans and try to improve them are very few -- you can count them up on one hand," Leviant said by telephone.