FATAL AQUA PARK CHIEF ARCHITECT PLEADS INNOCENT

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MOSCOW, April 1 (RIA Novosti) - Architect Nodar Kancheli, Transvaal Park chief designer, pleaded innocent and will press his point in courtroom. "I am not guilty, and I shall defend myself-I said so out loud to the men," he said to Novosti.

He has been forced to make a written pledge not to leave, added the suspect.

The city top prosecutor's officers indicted Mr. Kancheli today for causing deaths through criminal negligence. He had designed the Transvaal, an aqua park in Yasenevo, Moscow's southwest, whose dome collapsed, February 14, 2004, to bring bad casualties.

The prosecution offered the architect his criminal file, about 700 pages long, for familiarization. What he saw made him indignant-accident site examination materials were out of the file, as well as video footages which, the suspect alleges, figured the instant park column No. 11 collapsed.

"I was there the fatal day. We thoroughly examined the site. All columns were lying quite straight, only that one was bent almost at a right angle. As Mayor Luzhkov saw the footages, he cried: 'There was surely something wrong with it-something from the outside!'

"The Transvaal had been working fine for three years. If there really were construction blunders, why, then, did it last so long? Why didn't it collapse on an earlier occasion?" argues the architect.

The Institute of Geophysics under the Russian Academy of Sciences arranged expert studies of soil on the site to discover landslide traces, he emphatically added.

Mr. Kancheli had spent all the necessary time at the construction site as the aqua park was being built, he said hotly.

It is downright absurd to accuse him of criminal negligence. "True, there might have been certain design errors-but they were errors, mind you, not acts of negligence!" insists the architect.

The Transvaal Park accident, of February 14, 2004, killed 28 and injured more than a hundred.

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