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February 1, 2023

Heads fall after the Siutghiol helicopter crash: the prefect and the ISU manager of Constanta, sacked

Radu Volcinschi, prefect of Constanta, was dismissed on Wednesday after the operations destined to rescue the team aboard the SMURD helicopter that crashed into Siutghiol Lake failed. The measure was taken based on a proposition made by Internal Affairs Minister Gabriel Oprea to PM Victor Ponta on Tuesday. Afterwards, the Vice-Prime Minister also dismissed the head of the Emergency Situations Inspectorate (ISU) Constanta, Viorel Jianu. The SMURD helicopter crashed on Monday afternoon, a few minutes after 4:00 pm, into the Siutghiol lake, located between Mamaia and Navodari. Rescue efforts lasted for twelve hours. In the end, the four members on board died. The SMURD helicopter belonged to the Constanta Department and the crew consisted of the pilot and copilot of the Aviation General Inspectorate, as well as a doctor and a nurse of SMURD Constanta. At the time the accident occurred, the helicopter was returning from an aero-medical mission, after having carried a patient to the County Council of Constanta, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported. At takeoff, the weather was fine, visibility was of over six kilometres and the SMURD helicopter was performing a flight that granted ground visibility, according to Romatsa. General Prosecutor Tiberiu Nitu declared on Wednesday that, for the time being, no cause was identified for the crash of the SMURD helicopter, mentioning that, if it was established that the death of the four persons “was not due to a human deed”, but to “fortuitous circumstances”, nobody will be held responsible.


Intervention teams’ hesitations made rescue mission difficult


According to the report, the crews that intervened to rescue the victims left three minutes after receiving the emergency call. On the other hand, eye-witness accounts indicate that the rescue teams were not adequately equipped for interventions on water, which made the rescue efforts difficult. ISU Dobrogea spokeswoman Anca Chiritescu said the first crews of the Emergency Rescue Inspectorate (ISU) arrived to the scene of the crash of the SMURD helicopter 15 minutes after the call 112 call and but that the engine of inflatable boat would not start, therefore the fire-fighters decided to row. In the area there was a fully equipped motorboat of the Romanian Agency for Human Rescue at Sea (ARSVOM), but it was never requested to intervene. ARSVOM officials said if they had been let know about the SMURD helicopter crash they could have reached the place of the accident in maximum 10 minutes. However, according to Secretary of State Raed Arafat, ‘normally that boat should have not been at water, but under conservation’. Arafat also said that, from his point of view, the rescue operation was carried out adequately.


Inquiry, extended to manslaughter


The inquiry in the case of the helicopter that crashed into Siutghiol lake was extended for manslaughter, due to the death of the four crew members. The investigation is coordinated by the officers of the Military Prosecutors’ Office in Bucharest. Hearings were held yesterday in Constanta, yet the inquiry will go on in Bucharest as well, after all documents destined to reveal the causes of the accident are gathered, including the medical reports on the crew members’ lifeless bodies and data collected after researching the remains of the helicopter, recovered at the scene of the accident.


Prime Minister orders external auditing


The Government will order an external auditing for the Emergency Intervention Department, as procedures and officials of the institutions, for which funding has been allocated, should be better parade, PM Ponta announced after the tragedy. During the Cabinet meeting, he noted that he had received from the Ministry of Interior the first conclusions on the accident and that ‘the first responsibilities that must be taken’ would be approved.



Victims to be buried on Thursday


The lifeless bodies of the four victims of the Constanta aviation accident were carried to their hometowns. The funerals were scheduled for today. The nurse, Camelia Harton, aged 38, had been working for SMURD Constanta since 2008, when the service was founded. She had been a widow for eleven years and the mother of a thirteen-year-old girl. She had recently started dating a ship commander whom she had announced on the day of the tragedy, by a text message she had sent from the helicopter, that she was pregnant. The doctor Laura Vizireanu, aged 39, had been working for SMURD Constanta since 2008, when the service was founded and was the mother of a nine year old boy.Commander Petre Corneliu Catuneanu, aged 47, had been an employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for ten years. He had a flight experience of 2,900 hours, including approximately 2,000 hours on an EC 135 helicopter. He was married and had a daughter, a University student. The copilot of the helicopter, Captain Commander Ginel Claudiu Cracanel, aged 42, had been an employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for seven years and had a flight experience of 1,600 hours on board, including 500 on an EC 135 helicopter. He had a ten-year-old son. Three weeks ago, he had received the title of honorary citizen of his hometown, Mioveni. Ironically, at the ceremony he had asked the nurse to have a moment of introspection for his colleagues who had died in the aviation accident in Sibiu, Mediafax reported.




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