The minister however rejects direct responsibility in the scandal of the plane that crashed in the Apuseni Mountains and says that his resignation is a decision of honour. Prosecutors might consider probing the way in which authorities acted. Aura Ion, the 23-year-old student, was buried within the Ghencea Militar Cemetery, with military honours.
Under pressure from the public opinion and even his party president and colleagues, the liberal minister of Interior, Radu Stroe yesterday resigned following the aviation tragedy in the Apuseni, which claimed the lives of pilot Adrian Iovan and of a medical student. Stroe held yesterday afternoon a press conference in which he announced his resignation, mentioning that it is a honourary move meant to defend the dignity of firefighters from the General Inspectorate for Emergency Situations (IGSU), which were wrongly accused for the last three days, although they are heroes that save lives.
“These professional rescuers must not suffer because of political decision-makers. Locating the wreck of the plane is the job of other institutions, not MAI. I apologise to all those whom I gave the impression of a relaxed person, who clings to the ministerial chair, through inappropriate statements. My departure must represent an act of normality in a democratic country,” the resigning minister said.
Ponta: The legislation of emergency situations will be modified
Premier Victor Ponta promptly made a statement after the conference held by Stroe, announcing that Vice-premier Gabriel Oprea was appointed as interim minister of Interior and that PNL will propose a new minister around February 1. According to Agerpres, George Scutaru, leader of the PNL group of the Chamber of Deputies, or Mayor of Sibiu Klaus Johannis might replace Radu Stroe, and Hotnews said the name of an ex-Defence Minister, Mihai Stanisoara, was also considered.
The premier explained that the ministry of interior is not to blame for the way the incident was managed.
“It is increasingly obvious that the serious errors which misguided those looking for the survivors were made by Romatsa and STS,” he mentioned, adding that he will propose next week, during the cabinet meeting, the modification of the system used by public institutions in dealing with emergency situations. “One cannot stick to the current system, in which the Minister of Interior tries to coordinate institutions that report to other powers, such as STS. There will be two types of structures, one that pertains to extreme weather phenomena, while as regards the emergency situations, under the leadership of the deputy-premier for public order and national security, the institutions must work much better under the authority of only one person,” Ponta explained.
Stroe, an unacceptable statement
Previously to his resignation, liberal leader Crin Antonescu lashed out at Stroe on Realitatea TV, Wednesday evening, saying that the statements made by Radu Stroe about the air crash are “an example of catastrophic communication,” adding that he would propose to the PNL leadership to take “radical political measures.”
“With all due respect for Mr. Stroe and with all my collegiality, he is an example of catastrophic communication, capable to spark the revolt in conditions of public outcry,” Antonescu said. He also blamed the minister of Transportation, Ramona Manescu for failing to communicate these days. Tuesday evening, asked if he has anything to reproach himself about the way rescue operations were managed in the Cluj tragedy, Stroe bluntly said that he deplores the fact that the incident occurred during his mandate.
Prosecutors might start criminal investigation
After prosecutors started Wednesday a criminal probe for the infringing by the civil aeronautical personnel of their job obligations or the failure to comply with them and personal injury in the case of the accident in the Apuseni Mountains, yesterday the general prosecutor of Romania, Tiberiu Nitu took into consideration probing the way in which authorities acted. When asked if they investigate the way the authorities acted too, the head of the Public Ministry said: ‘I have seen the articles in the press. We also consider such a hypothesis. … I have said that we also consider such a hypothesis, I have not said it at the Prosecutor’s Office with the Court of Appeal in Alba Iulia and the General Prosecutors Office.’
Nitu however rejected the proposal of PDL first vice-president Catalin Predoiu, who announced Wednesday that he will file a criminal complaint against ministers Radu Stroe, Ramona Manescu and Eugen Nicolaescu, for negligence in office, in the case of the accident. “You did not notice this important aspect of Predoiu’s statement. (…) He initially mentioned three ministers that have a moral responsibility, then he said that he will file a criminal complaint. Criminal responsibility is something, while moral responsibility is something different,” the general prosecutor explained.
Politicians from both power and opposition inundated the media with resignation demands. If some democrat-liberals like vice-president Alin Tise consider that PM Ponta should resign, others like PSD senator PSD Mircea Geoana avoid to say who should be sacked, only saying that “one must take radical measures, regardless where the chain leads.”
Command Center’s disarray, confirmed by Cluj Mountain Rescue
Meanwhile, the representatives of institutions who were collaterally involved in the incident continued to make statements. Vasile Cipcigan, head of formation within the Cluj Mountain Rescue, stated that those who coordinated the Command Center refused the mountain rescuers’ help despite the fact that the latter had proper equipment, including sleeping bags and stretchers, while the victims were taken off the mountain by villagers using improvised stretchers. The Command Center was coordinated by several persons, including representatives of the Emergency Situations Inspectorates (ISUs) from Cluj, Alba and Bihor counties, and by the prefects of those counties.
“When we reached Horea commune we were told they do not need us. We very clearly told them, I myself checked the equipment, we had five SUVs and seven stretchers with us. We very clearly told them: “We have seven stretchers, we have sleeping bags, we can intervene.” But they told us “we don’t need it, the ones higher up told us so. The ones higher up, geographically speaking, said they don’t need us, they can manage with what they have.” “Ok, thank you,” we told them, and pulled back,” Cipcigan stated at a press conference on Wednesday, being quoted by Mediafax. In his turn, Gheorge Fratila, head of the Cluj Mountain Rescue, stated at the same press conference that he listened to the indications of the Command Center and did not act on his own.
On the other hand, pilot Serban Ionescu, a former colleague of Adrian Iovan’s, confirmed that the signal that made it easier to locate the aircraft had been sent, because the aircraft had the necessary equipment. “It’s certain the ELP was sent, it was heard by my colleagues from BlueAir and other airlines while in flight. ROMATSA was informed too about this signal issued on frequency 121.5. We couldn’t locate it from an airplane, we didn’t have the necessary equipment,” Ionescu explained.
Transplant coordinator Victor Zota also emphasized pilot Adrian Iovan’s experience on the type of aircraft that crashed, stating that Iovan had conducted almost 30 flights in the last two years for the National Transplant Agency, several of them on the type of aircraft in which he died.
Aircraft wreckage also picked up by villagers
Another question mark was raised about the authorities’ reaction after the crash too, because the villagers from Horea were also the ones that used their carriages and cars to take the wreckage off the mountain. Sorin Cimpoieru, the head of the commission investigating the air crash, stated on Thursday that the wreckage will be taken to Bucharest where it will be preserved pending the investigation, adding that the causes investigated include weather conditions that can influence the aircraft’s engines.
SMURD doctor: Victims did not die of hypothermia
There were also voices that claimed that a faster rescue would not have changed the outcome. Doctor Beres Zsolt, the head of SMURD Bihor, the first one to consult the persons injured in the crash, stated that in his opinion “the pilot and the student that lost their lives would not have survived even if the rescuers had reached them within 30 minutes” after the crash, claiming that both the girl and the pilot had serious injuries and signs of internal bleeding. In other developments, the representatives of the Cluj County Hospital where the copilot and three of the injured doctors were hospitalized stated yesterday that they are in a favorable condition. “In the case of one of the patients the nose fracture was treated. In the case of the copilot the rhabdomyolysis was reduced and orthopedic interventions will be scheduled,” a hospital communiqué reads.
Homage paid to the dead
Away from the political dispute over who is to blame for the tragedy, the families of the victims and the whole public opinion are mourning the dead. Aura Ion, the 23-year-old student, was buried yesterday within the Ghencea Militar Cemetery, with military honours, being posthumously promoted to lieutenant.
Also yesterday, Adrian Iovan’s lifeless body was laid in state at the Aviation Academy and will be buried on Friday within the Bellu Catholic Cemetery. His relatives, including his former wife Romanita Iovan, his colleagues and other persons paid their last respects at the Academy. Romanita, who has a son with Adrian Iovan, stated to the press that he told her child that “his father is a hero and he died in order to rescue people.”