The load capacity of metal support beams in the collapsed Maxima supermarket in Zolitude was exceeded 6.5 times, as reported by Ir magazine with reference to the results of the court’s technical examination.
It was uncovered during the examination that the opportunity to prevent the terrible tragedy was missed multiple times.
Specialists of Riga Technical University have concluded that the load capacity of metal support beams that held up the roof of the building had been significantly exceeded. ‘It was noted in the project that the node would hold nearly 316.7 tons, but in reality its maximum load capacity was 44.85 tons. Certain steel elements of that structure had been overloaded as well. For example, the estimated overload of the support node was 2.8 times of its actual load capacity,’ – Ir reports.
The building was originally going to have one-piece support beams. During the project, however, they were divided. Changes to the building’s support beams were made a total of five times throughout the project. On top of that, two of those changes were not documented at all. It is mentioned in the experts’ report that support beam options were changed multiple times even before the manufacture of metal constructions – changes were added to the load capacity on support panels and the lower support node, which turned out to be the culprit behind the collapse of the roof structure.
According to Ir, after changing support beam options – size of supports and locations of screws – it was necessary to carry out calculations of the entire structure’s acceptable load capacity. A full re-calculation would have helped uncover errors and prevent the manufacture of supports with insufficient load capacity. Having gone through the documents RTU specialists have concluded that construction specialist Ivars Sergets had not carried out those re-calculations. Moreover, a detailed look at the documents reveals that there were no entries made in those documents to suggest the authors of the project had requested specific screws and plates to be used in support nodes.
These planning errors along with others resulted in the terrible tragedy.
Experts also criticize the quality of work that went into securing support beams. According to RTU specialists, materials of the construction project are incomplete and lacking vital guidelines that must be included in accordance with construction rules. Unfortunately, the structure was put together without following proper procedures. The fire that struck the roof of the supermarket in 2011 also negatively impacted the stability of the roof. However, the fire and the damage it caused were not the main cause of the tragedy. It could have served as a reason to inspect the building in detail to ensure nothing was wrong, but that never happened.
Deformation of structures put together using incomplete documents started shortly after completion of the construction process. After a detailed examination of remains of the roof after the tragedy, specialists concluded that it was possible to notice problems immediately after the main support beams were put together. Support beams were put together in February 2011. Immediately after initial installation, the structure deformed. Lower support beams had settled down approximately 0.7 cm below the projected height. Reinforced concrete plates were installed on top of the roof. After reinforcement was complete, support beams dropped by another 2 cm. Experts say that some nodes were already 3-3.5 cm below the connection line by the time final documents regarding the building’s completion were submitted to the Construction Office.
Work carried out on the roof in October 2013 only contributed to the roof’s gradual deformation processes. This process continued until the roof finally failed and collapsed on unsuspecting people on 21 November.
As previously mentioned by Prosecutor General Eriks Kalnmeiers: «There was no question as to whether or not it would collapse. The question was – when it would collapse. The error was programmed from the start,» – he said.
The Prosecutor General has said enough evidence has been collected to believe significant changes had been made to the project and certain construction regulations had been ignored. Certain support beams of the supermarket had been definitely overloaded.
The prosecutor’s office has submitted the Zolitude tragedy’s criminal case to the court. 263 people have been recognized as victims of the tragedy. The total amount of compensation for the damage and injuries caused by this terrible tragedy is EUR 155 million.
Materials of the case are compiled in 80 volumes, there are 144 witnesses and 10 experts are currently involved in technical examinations.