Border guards drowned as a result of concurrence

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Photo: PPA

Information available to Postimees suggests the reason for the death of one of the border guards who drowned near Haapsalu last summer was a poorly fastened life jacket. The prosecution cannot disclose details of the investigation at the time.

Õhtuleht wrote that one of the border guards who was wearing a life jacket drowned because he had probably lost consciousness and couldn't inflate his vest, while the other man had not fastened the vest properly and was suffocated as a result of inflating it using a compressed air bottle.

The prosecution said it cannot confirm the paper's information. “Because criminal proceedings have not been concluded yet, it is impossible to say with certainty what happened and what caused the two officers to lose their lives,” said district attorney in charge of the proceedings Indrek Kalda.

Information available to Postimees suggests the men drowned as a result of overlapping circumstances: first that the strap running between the wearer's legs had not been fastened on one of the life jackets. The strap is supposed to keep the vest from rising above the wearer's chest when inflated and suffocating them.

Because the strap was unfastened, the worst case scenario unfolded. The officer's tragic asphyxiation was also due to his strong build. This didn't leave the man enough room to breathe under the vest.

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) told Postimees it cannot comment on claims, neither confirm or deny them until the proceedings are officially concluded. The ruling on termination of proceedings is virtually on the prosecutor's desk.

“Detectives have asked the prosecution to terminate the proceedings; however, the permit has not been granted. The Lääne district prosecutor's office must be convinced that evidence collected and procedural acts carried out have been sufficient and coincide with conclusions drawn. Additional acts will be carried out if needed,” lead prosecutor Indrek Kalda said.

As long as there is no permit for termination, investigation results cannot be regarded as final, which is why no conclusion can be treated as truthful. PPA press representative Olja Kivistik said that officials of the PPA internal control bureau and an expert from the Estonian Forensic Science Institute checked the suitability of semi-automatic life jackets after the incident. “The jackets the men were wearing were internationally approved and in working order.”

“It has been decided that officers on sea patrol are safer using life jackets with straps between the legs. Semi-automatic jackets are still used in the boats. These vests will be given to people who are pulled out of the water during rescue missions.”

A motorboat of the Haapsalu police department was found a few kilometers from shore in the Voosi strait on June 28 of last year at 19:15. The boat's engine was running causing it to move in circles. There was no crew on board. One of the border guards who were on the boat was found dead at 19:45. The body of his partner was found at 20:05. One of the deceased was chief inspector Tarmo Kammer who had been a border guard in Lääne district since 1996. His companion was commissar Renee Kark who had spent most of his career, that started when the border guard was established in 1991, in the Haapsalu cordon.