A driver who caused the deaths of three people while illegally speeding, overtaking and driving under the influence on the island of Saaremaa in January has partly accepted culpability, but denied guilt of murder.
The defendant, Andres Reinart, pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder on the opening day of the hearing at Kuressaare courthouse Thursday, but admitted guilt for having violated traffic requirements and thereby causing a road accident with severe consequences.
Prosecutor Rainer Amur said, as per charges filed earlier by the prosecutor's office, that the accused knew that he was heavily intoxicated, knowingly and intentionally drove significantly over the speed limit, and intentionally crossed into the opposite lane, at a location where overtaking is prohibited.
"The assessment of the prosecutor's office is that he had to have been aware that safe overtaking depended not on his actions but on pure chance, and did not care about that fact. Such behavior poses a most serious threat to fellow road users, and therefore constitutes a danger to the public," Amur said.
The accident took place on the afternoon of Saturday, January 11, at the 128th kilometer of the Risti-Virtsu-Kuivastu road after an Audi being driven by Reinart overtook a Volvo at high speed, just as the Volvo was turning left.
Two women and an infant were killed, with a passenger in the Volvo along with Reinart being hospitalized.
Reinart had been clocked at 138 km/h about 10 km ahead of the crash site. The speed limit on that stretch of road is 90 km/h.
Reinart's blood alcohol was recorded at 3.51 promilles at Kuressaare hospital one hour after the accident, though subsequent analysis revised this figure downwards to 1.82 promilles.
The investigation initially related to the section of the Estonian Penal Code dealing with the violation of traffic requirements or vehicle operating rules by a driver committed in intoxicated state, and which causes the death of two or more people.
However, the prosecutor found that the sequence of events leading to the accident merited it being handled under the most serious section of the Penal Code possible.
The trial is ongoing.
Editor: Andrew Whyte