While no criminal charges resulted from the tragic firing range death of Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) operative Joonas Männik just over a year ago, the authority's own investigation identified several shortcomings which it says need to be eliminated, regional daily Tartu Postimees reports.
The PPA's director, Elmar Vaher, told the daily (link in Estonian) that: "Following the tragic accident which happened to Joonas, we have specified the rules, responsibilities and requirements of firing exercises in order to further increase their safety."
"At the same time, we have also actively searched for opportunities for our instructors and officers, so they can receive more frequent and more thorough training and made other improvements in connection with conducting shooting training," Vaher went on.
"Unfortunately, in hindsight, nothing will undo this accident or bring Joonas back to us," he added.
Kairi Kaldoja, the Chief Prosecutor at the Prosecutor's Office Southern District, told the daily that even if all the shortcomings highlighted by the internal audit had been absent at the time the tragedy took place, it cannot be said with certainty that in this case the Joonas Männik, who was 26 when he died, would still be with us today, noting that for the relatives of the deceased, the charges they made – the family do not blame Joonas' colleagues who fired the rounds which killed him - will remain for as long as these shortcomings remain unresolved.
The original Tartu Postimees piece (in Estonian) is here.
'Pealtnägija': Safety procedural documentation filled-out after the incident
Meanwhile ETV investigative show "Pealtnägija" also addressed the tragedy in its Wednesday night edition, and elaborated on some of the oversights and shortcomings, which, the show said, included a lack of certification on the part of one instructor, confusion over the nature of the live firing exercise being undertaken, and the firing range failing to meet standards.
Additionally, safety paperwork was concluded after the incident and included a signature placed in the space allocated for the deceased and which should have been signed before the exercise, "Pealtnägija" reported.
In this case, an instructor admitted completing the paperwork after the incident, but said that there had been no intention to deceive – a colleague had inadvertently placed his signature in the field designated for the deceased's signature, the instructor said.
The incident, on October 28 2021, happened when PPA Southern Prefecture officers were involved in a live firing exercise which also involved movement, and the deceased had moved, for reasons still not yet fully ascertained, into the line of fire designated to some of his colleagues.
.56mm caliber armor-piercing ammunition had been in use, which caused massive internal damage to the deceased when he was hit, though, "Pealtnägija" reported, he was hit at a part of the body unprotected by armor, while the ballistics of the rounds' impact were such that any ammunition would have caused similar damage.
As for the PPA instructor who did not have the requisite domestic certification, Elmar Vaher told "Pealtnägija" that he had the equivalent, or beyond, training and experience, including training overseas.
The PPA says it is requesting funding to improve conditions and internal work organization, following the tragedy.
The original "Pealtnägija" reportage (in Estonian) is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: Tartu Postimees, Pealtnägija