Tragic accident claims life of teenager

An accident claimed the life of a young man at the Kuutsemäe Ski Center. PHOTO: Arvo Meeks / Lõuna-Eesti Postimees

An accident that claimed the life of a young man at the Kuutsemäe Ski Center raises more questions than answers, with a criminal investigation launched to provide the latter.

A 15-year-old youth was killed in an accident at the Kuutsemäe Ski Center in Otepää Municipality on Sunday night. The accident is reported to have taken place at around 5.30 p.m. when the center was still open to customers. The young man was helping his father with maintenance of the training slope ski lift.

Kauri Sinkevičius, press adviser for the South District Prosecutor's Office, said that the young man got caught in the lift's roller mechanism and that the investigation needs to determine whether work safety had been ensured.

“The prosecution has more questions than answers at this time,” Sinkevičius said, adding that it needs to be ascertained which safety precautions should have been taken and whether the young man was qualified to undertake the task alone.

The spokesperson said that the ski lift’s roller mechanism had to have been operational during maintenance work as it is impossible to get caught in it when it is stationary. He added there is no information to suggest someone else could have switched it on. “That is unlikely. The accident was probably caused by maintenance being carried out while the machine was working,” Sinkevičius said.

“We have no information to suggest there were witnesses to the accident, which is why it is not likely someone switched on the device,” the prosecution’s representative said, suggesting that other people would immediately have been aware of the incident otherwise. EMTs were not able to save the boy’s life and he died of injuries sustained at the ski center.

The prosecution’s information suggests both father and son were working based on employment contracts.

Employees of the Kuutsemäe Ski Center were despondent. “It was a serious blow for the staff,” an employee who wished to remain anonymous said.

Ainar Koik, prosecutor for the South District Prosecutor's Office, said that there are many unanswered questions for which answers will be sought in criminal proceedings. “We will check whether all necessary work safety rules were followed in the course of proceedings,” he said.

The Kuutsemäe Ski Center is a popular winter entertainment venue. The photographer of local paper Lõuna-Eesti Postimees said that around a dozen people could be seen on the slopes at around 11.10 a.m. on Monday with more arriving. Cars with foreign license plates could also be seen in the parking lot.

The police have launched a criminal investigation based on endangerment.

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