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Men blamed for firemen’s deaths land in court

The trial of five people facing homicide charges in the worst fire-fighting disaster in Switzerland began on Monday, with a verdict expected in around a month.

Seven firemen died in 2004 when a parking garage in Gretzenbach, canton Solothurn, collapsed on top of them as they fought to put out a burning car. The victims were between 27 and 42 years old.

The Solothurn public prosecutor charged five people involved in building the garage with negligent homicide, negligent bodily injury and negligently causing the collapse.

The defendants range between 58 and 84 years old and are an engineer, his superiors, two property developers and a construction manager. A sixth defendant has since died.

The prosecution alleges that an “averagely trained and qualified construction expert” could have predicted the collapse. During the garage’s construction in 1989, certain rules were not followed and work remained uncoordinated. Just one year later, the garage’s roof showed signs of cracking.

A large mound of earth was “for unknown reasons” never removed from the top of the garage. The defendants “recklessly relied on the absence of a collapse”, the prosecutor alleged, based on reports of other construction experts.

The case had been closed after time limits expired for pursuing the matter, but the canton’s highest court reopened the case after upholding portions of a complaint by relatives of the victims.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR