Construction worker confesses in Cologne archive collapse case
Eleven months after the deadly collapse of Cologne’s city archive, a construction worker has given investigators their first confession in the case, media reports said on Tuesday.
The archive collapsed on March 3, 2009 killing two men in a neighbouring building and destroying scores of precious historic documents.
The city has since opened an investigation into what caused the accident and has raided the offices of construction companies involved in building a metro line underneath the building.
Now according to local daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, a construction worker on the metro line has admitted that his foreman intentionally used fewer steel reinforcements at the site of the accident. The unused metal allegedly went to scrap dealers, the paper said.
The worker’s statements have been substantiated by a further witness, though they were denied by the foreman, according to the paper. State prosecutors working on the case refused to comment due to the ongoing investigation.
There is also evidence that protocols for the work site may have been falsified, the paper said.
In June 2009 experts said they had recovered 85 percent of the archive’s documents and were amazed by how many had survived the devastating accident.
The documents, which date back as far as 1,000 years, were in varying states when rescue workers pulled them from the archive rubble, but less than one-quarter had been torn apart. Experts have since been working to piece them back together using software that was developed to restore shredded documents from the East German secret police, the Stasi.
Long commentary: I had to post this because it was either that or hitting something. Selling building stability parts as scrap metal? But it's Cologne, so little surprises me. This is by far not the only thing that apparently went wrong - there were wells built under the building area, and while there were only permission for four, they in fact built over 20, which cannot have helped, as they went far over the amount of below-surface water they were allowed to pump out. According to another article I just read, the prosecution doesn't think that the theft of the iron parts was the reason for the collapse. Apparently, there were a number of factors working together, and quite a few of them probably had to do with the almost legendary levels of corruption and ignoring regulations commonly found in Cologne.
It was a miracle that only two people died, with the state the other buildings were in. If this had happened at night, the neighbours would all have been in bed. Or if the reading room of the archive hadn't been directly on the ground floor, people in the archive never would have made it out alive. And all in all, the documents seem to have fared a lot better than was thought at first. Still, this is unlike anything in recent memory. And according to what I read, has given new drive to almost-forgotten projects aiming at digitalisation or at long-time storage of important documents in abandoned mines. Because although we no longer fear the nuclear war, we can always count on human greed and idiocy. Even the very small, specialised institute I'm working at has started scanning its information.