Two people have died while waiting five hours to be rescued by the paramedics. They died of hypothermia and severe wounds that nonetheless could have been treated had they been rescued in time. The Apuseni air crash mirrors the incompetence of the public authorities that are paid chiefly with taxpayer’s money to save them in emergency situations, such as the medical plane crash two weeks ago.
According to the preliminary autopsy results, pilot Adrian Iovan died of traumatic shock and hypothermia and the medical student Aura Ion died of hypothermia and respiratory problems. The two victims could have been saved only if the emergency responders did their job properly. Their death is a case of criminal negligence and incompetence and should trigger criminal convictions.
Despite the fact that the air crash investigation is in its early stages, and the responsibilities for the death of the two victims has not been clearly established, the failure of the rescue operation triggered already a wave of resignations and dismissals, including the stepping down of the Interior Minister Radu Stroe, ROMATSA (Romanian Air Traffic Services Administration) director Aleodor Francu, of secretary of state within Ministry of Interior Mihai Chiper and of the head of the General Inspectorate for Emergency Situations, Ion Burlui. For anyone with the slightest sense of responsibility, these resignations are normal and they come to appease the public outcry over the way the rescue operations took place. In my opinion, Transportation Minister Ramona Manescu should have resigned as well. But as I said before, the official inquiry, now taken over by the Military prosecution office is called to establish the criminal responsibilities of each of the emergency respondents. There is however one institution that failed to admit any responsibility in this affair, and sadly enough this institution is the one that, according to the national and European legislation and regulations in place has the duty to localize the wreck of the plane. The guilty silence of the Special Telecommunication Agency (STS) in the first days following the accident was interrupted by a series of perplex yet aggressive denials of the STS leadership, that not only reject any wrongdoing but even dare to contradict the survivors, bluntly implying that they are lying when they say that they gave to the 112 operators their exact location, and even more that they even made a call to the emergency number.
STS and its boss Marcel Opris, whose removal from office was asked by Prime Minister Victor Ponta following the preliminary inquiry conducted by the Cabinet, received the backing of the President, who not only wholeheartedly defended Opris but made a series of baffling allegations. In a very official fashion, from the presidential speech stand, Traian Basescu claimed that STS has not the capability of identifying the location of an accident or other emergency situation via mobile phone. A superficial read of the 112 Emergency line functioning laws shows that STS is the institution that identifies the caller from ‘a mobile or land-line phone, radio or other means of modern communication tools’. On the other hand, if what the president says is true, namely that STS has not the necessary logistic for picking up a signal from a mobile phone, then, STS should give back to the EU the funds that it spend exactly for this purpouse and the Commission should start the infringement procedure against Romania because it failed to render the 112 emergency line fully operational as required by the EU legislation.
While coming to the rescue of his mate Opris, whom he appointed head of the Special Transmissions agency some nine years ago, the president lashed out at all the other institutions whose heads had already resigned days ahead his speech. He forgot only that the Ministry of Home Affairs is an institution far more important than STS, and who was also blamed by the preliminary inquiry of the government for the slow reaction in the wake of the accident. So why is Basescu so keen on defending STS? Aren’t MAI, ROMATSA and IGSU also state institutions? Why isn’t the president equally concerned about the ‘discreditation’ attempt of these three institutions? Is it, probably because STS is under the command of the National Defence Council (CSAT) that Basescu heads?
Furthermore, the president’s attempt to clear of all responsibility is a grave interference with the judiciary, as the prosecutors’ investigation is ongoing. One might wonder why the Superior Council of Magistrates, DNA or other very vocal magistrates’ bodies do not slam such gross interference? In my humble view, to say, from the presidential speech desk that Marcel Opris and his institution are innocent, equals to an order to not find them guilty. Coming from someone who ‘defends’ the independence of the judiciary from dawn to dusk, Basescu’s statement is baffling.
They say there’s no smoke without fire. In recent years, STS has been involved in several high-profile political scandals, all linked to the president. Back in 2009, STS was suspected by the opposition and several NGOs to have transmitted to Basescu’s campaign staff during the presidential elections the data from all the voting sections. There was no DNA (?!) inquiry and the Electoral Permanent Bureau failed to start its own investigation into the serious allegations. After Basescu’s suspension from office in 2012, STS moved the special transmission logistic from Cotroceni to his campaign office. It was an illegal action, as the special phone has direct links with all state institutions, including the Constitutional Court (!) and the Prosecutor’s Office, DNA and all the intelligence agencies. Despite the fact that Marcel Opris was obviously guilty of an illegal action and abuse in office and favouritism, no one from the Prosecution’s office or DNA found appropriate to investigate him for his deeds. Why? Obviously because as other potentates of the Basescu regime, Opris is enjoying ‘special’ protection. The interim president of Romania, Senate leader Crin Antonescu could have dismissed Opris easily back then because he had the prerogatives to do so, but he didn’t. Antonescu didn’t want to upset even more the ‘protectors of the state 0f law” in Brussels, who, through a politicised report on Justice warned him not change any head of institution in Romania during his interim presidentship. Unfortunately, Antonescu surrendered to the threats and left Opris in office. Now, the die-hard supporters of Basescu and his soon-to-be defunct regime are blaming Victor Ponta of trying to kill the ‘neutrality’ of STS, by moving it under the command of the Ministry of Home Affairs. This logic is flawed as STS is already under the political command of the President, who for more than eight years led, dismantled and created political parties, heading the CSAT in a very transparent political fashion. So, why the president’s camp is so upset? One editorialist goes so far as to imply that the Ministry of Home Affairs is not a trustworthy institution, and by having access to the STS data the Ministry might jeopardise Romania’s relations with the international bodies, such as NATO and the EU. This clearly shows how far the blame game is going as to make such ludicrous statements only to score one more point for Basescu’s political camp. I wonder if the Ministry of Home Affairs was more “neutral’ and trustworthy when it was led by Vasile Blaga, who also intended to move STS under the MAI command.
This tragedy, unfortunately demonstrates to us, Romanians, that all is subject to whimsical political decisions, including when it comes to settle the guilt for the death of two innocent people, one of our best and bravest in this case.