Nine years after the devastating collapse of the city’s historic archive, six defendants will finally go on trial. The men face charges of negligent homicide and hazardous building practices.
Some nine years after the spectacular and deadly collapse of Cologne’s city archive, the trial of six men accused of negligent homicide and dangerous building practices will begin at the city’s state courthouse.
City prosecutors had also charged a seventh man but he has since died.
The court has scheduled 126 days of testimony. Should the men be found guilty they could face several years in prison as well as serious financial fines.
One of the worst building catastrophes of the postwar era
Numerous witnesses and experts are expected to testify during the trial, which must be completed before March 3, 2019, which marks the 10-year statute of limitations. The collapse, which is believed to have been caused by construction work on a nearby subway line, killed two residents in neighboring buildings and destroyed the apartments of 36 more. Prosecutors claim the collapse was caused by faulty construction work.
The construction company, however, has repeatedly contended that it was caused by a so-called hydraulic ground failure and was not a result of negligence on the part of site managers or workers.
Most important historical archive north of the Alps
The archive, which was originally established in the Middle Ages, housed tens of thousands of historical documents, the oldest of which dated from the year 992 A.D.
Some 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) of shelves, containing 90 percent of the archive’s holdings, were destroyed when the building caved in. The contents they held were subsequently buried in the mud and water of the collapse.
Firemen, first responders and volunteers were able to recover almost all of the documents, but these were severely, and some irreparably damaged in the collapse.
Efforts are ongoing to piece together and restore those documents that can be saved.
The city is currently building a new archive to house those documents. It is expected to be finished in 2020.
js/kms (AFP, dpa)