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Derelict building site drowning makes future of Lasnamäe plot more pressing

A man drowned on Friday in a water-filled abandoned building site in Tallinn's Lasnamäe district. The incident has drawn further attention both to safety in the area and the future of the plot, once set aside for a planned shopping mall which would have been the largest in Estonia, had it gone ahead.

The site where the drowning happened, in Tondiraba, in the residential Lasnamäe district, has been the scene of other incidents in the past, the Rescue Board (Päästeamet) says.

Liina Valner, Rescue Board spokesperson, said that: "In the past, first responders have also had to call the police there in the course of their water safety prevention work, as there have been violations of public order".

The undeveloped plot, still mostly a large hole filled with water (see gallery), was earmarked for another major shopping mall and leisure center – what would have been the largest of its kind in Estonia, had it gone ahead.

It is owned by developers Infortar.

Dubbed Tallink City, the detailed plan for the complex was adopted by Tallinn City Government in 2013, in the area between two main, parallel thoroughfares, Peterburi tee and Laagna tee, and close to the Mustakivi Selver hypermarket and the Lasnamäe Centrum shopping mall.

Tallink City would have consisted of 144,000 square meters' retail space and 22,500 square meters would have been set aside for entertainment facilities.

However, last fall, developers Infortar told ERR that the idea had been shelved for the meantime.

Infortar called Friday's incident particularly tragic.

"The plot, at Punane 76 had been fenced off for many years, in order to ensure safety, and has bilingual 'private land', 'no entry' and 'danger of death' signage, aimed at alerted local residents," Infortar's marketing manager Mart Mikk said.

"As these warning signs have been constantly stolen, and the fence has been damaged, plus it is not uncommon for violators to become aggressive towards those making repairs, we have informed the municipal police, visited the district government to assess the territory and asked for help in solving the problem,"
Mikk went on.

At 9.40 p.m. last Friday, first responders were summonsed to the site following reports that a middle-aged man had gotten into difficulty in the water.

While rescuers were able to get the man, by that time unconscious, ashore, medics were unable to Resuscitate him.

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) say not proceedings have been initiated, while an autopsy is due to determine the exact cause of death of the victim.

Deputy mayor of Tallinn and Lasnamäe district elder Vladimir Svet (Center) says he and his government have also been highlighting the issue.

Svet told ERR last September: "Last year, the district government started communicating with Infortar, in order to stop the illegal use of the area by the public. In our opinion, Infortar has already done a lot towards this".

Most of the trespassing involved walking on the plot but swimming in the waterlogged crater was not unheard of either Svet said.

On Monday, Svet said that the recent incident had been a tragedy and expressed a hope that it would not be repeated.

While landowners can always do more, safety is also down to the personal responsibility of the individual, he said.

As to the site's future, Svet said the district wants the plot to be built on as soon as possible, adding that so far as he was aware Infortar pans to erect a construction materials store there.

Mart Mikk, Infortar spokesperson, said stricter safety measures would be taken, together with meetings with local government, while a commercial company related to the property was to be set up as soon as possible.

The round table discussion involving Infortar, the city government and the rescue board is set for next week, it is reported.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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