Deadly gas leak incident extraordinary, say authorities

A press conference regarding the deadly gas leak in Tallinn's Kakumäe neighbourhood was held on Sunday night. 14 October 2018.
A press conference regarding the deadly gas leak in Tallinn's Kakumäe neighbourhood was held on Sunday night. 14 October 2018. Source: Aurelia Minev/ERR

A press conference was held at the Rescue Board on Sunday evening where representatives of the Rescue Board, Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), Prosecutor's Office and Technical Regulatory Authority (TJA) provided an update regarding a gas leak which resulted in the deaths of two children in a Kakumäe, Tallinn home on Saturday.

Present at the press conference were District Prosecutor Diana Helila, Rescue Board Chief Duty Officer Toomas Kääparin, Rescue Board Oversight Department Director Tagne Tähe, head of the Child Protection Group of the North Prefecture's Criminal Bureau Reimo Raivet, and TJA Director General Kaur Kajak.

Raivet began by confirming that an emergency call had been received sometime after 18:00 EEST on Saturday, and that it had been placed by the parents who lived in the home where the deadly leak had occurred.

The bodies of two children, aged four and seven, were found in a semi-detached home located on Vismeistri Street in the Kakumäe neighbourhood of Tallinn's Haabersti District. The parents and their two-year-old child were transported to hospital as well, the former of which have since been released; the two-year-old remains in hospital in critical condition.

In connection with the suspected gas leak, the police also summoned the Rescue Board to the scene.

Kääparin explained that rescuers to arrive somewhat later began testing gas levels in the home. While no leak was discovered inside the home, a leak was discovered by the gas main leading into the building.

Leaks discovered in other nearby homes

After speaking with neighbours, rescuers began testing nearby homes, where further leaks were discovered. The Rescue Board brought in additional resources, together with whom leaks were identified in at least ten other homes.

Kääparin added later that the Rescue Board's equipment can detect the presence of gas, but not the concentration thereof or whether it falls within accepted norms.

As the primary task of the Rescue Board is to ensure safety, it was decided to shut off the gas supply to the area. Rescuers completed their work on site at approximately 2:00.

Representatives of the TJA were called in on Saturday night, arriving on the scene at 20:30, Kajak said. It was the TJA who recommended that the Rescue Board shut off the gas in the area, just in case.

Over the weekend, TJA officials went from house to house, testing for possible leaks. Houses determined not to have any leaks had their gas supply turned back on.

According to Kajak, their investigation will continue as long as it takes to determine all of the facts.

Analysis to take one week

In response to a question, Raivet said that how the gas leak occurred, what kind of gas had leaked and what more exactly caused the death of the two children was still under investigation and would be determined by an expert analysis.

Kajak in turn noted that nothing had been discovered yet that would hint at any sort of failure to comply with regulations, adding that the deadly leak had to occur in the immediate vicinity.

He stressed that two different types of gas were being discussed. Natural gas, or methane, has a distinctive smell, and upon smelling it, one should shut off the gas and call in specialists. The odorless carbon monoxide (CO), however, is trickier, and symptoms of CO poisoning often resemble those of the flu — headaches, vomiting and feeling as though one wants to lie down and sleep.

According to Kajak, such gas-related accidents began occurring in Estonia in 2015 and generally in connection with older houses and DIY repairwork, which is why the agency's focus has been primarily on checking the safety of first and foremost older buildings. Saturday's incident was extraordinary in that regard, however, as the deadly leak occurred in a new home, where the supply system was even located in a dedicated, separate room.

The primary job of the Prosecutor's Office and the PPA is to investigate the two children's cause of death, as the steps to follow will be determined by the results. According to Raivet, the expert analysis should be complete in about a week.

The investigation of the Prosecutor's Office was launched under the provision of the Penal Code regarding negligent homicide.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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