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9 People Arrested over Teen’s Death in Vake Park

The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) announced during a briefing on 18 October that nine were detained in connection with the death of 13-year-old Marita Mefarishvili, who died after she was electrocuted in a newly-renovated fountain in Vake Park. Those arrested include the deputy head of Tbilisi City Hall’s Environmental Protection Department and Lasha Purtskhvanidze, the Director of Greenservice+, the main contractor for the renovations.

How were the teens electrocuted?

According to the Internal Affairs Ministry, the teens were electrocuted because the cables had been damaged during repair works carried out on 22 September 2022. On this day, New Metal Design LLC, a subcontractor by Greenservice+, employed two electric welders, who were instructed to encase the black water pipes coming out of the fountain’s electric motor in a stainless steel cover.

In order to carry out the work, the welders removed the metal grill around the electric motor, and while reattaching it, damaged the isolation casing of one of the electric wires after it became caught between the concrete surface and the metal grill; a fact they failed to notice.

Why were these additional works needed?

The police say, on 22 October 2021, Tbilisi City Hall signed a contract for the repair works of the Vake Park fountain and the fountain cascade with Greenservice+ LLC. The same department of City Hall officially accepted part of the repair works on the fountain on 26 August 2022.

According to the MIA, however, despite the work having been completed, the Deputy Head of the City Hall’s Environmental Protection Department asked the director of Greenservice+ to cover the black water pipes with metallic casing. That is what Greenservice+ instructed its subcontractor, New Metal Design LLC to do.

Why was the faulty wiring not detected?

According to the investigation, New Metal Design LLC “did not verify the work performed by the electric welders hired by them, and the manager of Greenservice+ did not provide due oversight of the work.”

The police say the Director of Greenservice+ also failed to conduct an appropriate inspection before presenting the completed work to City Hall, and the Deputy Head of City Hall’s Environmental Protection Department likewise did not carry out an inspection before accepting that work.

According to the Internal Affairs Ministry, had the above-mentioned individuals performed their duty correctly, the damaged electrical wire would have been discovered and the fatal outcome could have been avoided.

Why did the City Hall accept a faulty fountain in the first place?

An independent inspection of performed works is mandated by the law and performed either by the certified contractor or the municipality itself. According to the investigation, Greenservice+ did sign an agreement with MshenInspect LCC to prepare the inspection required for the signing of the handover act with City Hall’s Environmental Protection Department. MshenInspect LLC proceeded to carry out an inspection of the value of the volume of works actually performed and provided the conclusions to Greenservice+.

The law and the contract also required an inspection to certify the compliance of the works with construction norms, which the original report by MshenInspect LLC did not contain. The investigation says the Greenservice+ director leaned on MshenInspect’s director and inspector to falsify the inspection document and to include the verification of compliance “in exchange for continuing a business relationship with their company.”

This false certificate is dated 25 August 2022 and was submitted to the City Hall’s Environmental Protection Department by Greenservice’s Director, and became the basis for the acceptance of the project and the official handover of the fountain to the municipality.

What charges are brought?

According to the Internal Affairs Ministry, the deputy head of City Hall’s Environmental Protection Department was charged under Article 342 (2) of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which envisages neglect of official duty resulting in the death or serious injury of a person. He faces 2-5 years in prison.

Meanwhile, Purtskhvanidze of Greenservice+ was charged under Article 220 Prima (2), referring to negligence resulting in the death or serious injury of a person, and Article 362 (1), referring to the forgery of official documents. Other representatives of Greenservice+ and New Metal Design LLC have been also charged under Article 220 Prima (2).

Meanwhile, another employee of Greenservice+ has been charged under Article 25-362 (1) for inciting the production of a forged official document, while the director of MshenInspect LLC was charged for producing a forged official document under Article 362(1).

Finally, the two welders who carried out the works are being investigated under Article 240(2) of the Criminal Code, which implies a breach of safety regulations, resulting in the death or serious injury of a person.

The MIA explained that the investigation remains ongoing and that as more evidence is collected, it is possible that more charges will be brought.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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