Manslaughter charges considered for ice roof death

Police in Helsinki are investigating whether a building manager and service company can be charged with involuntary manslaughter after a pensioner was killed when ice fell on him from a roof. The man died from his injuries after the incident in the city’s Hakaniemi district in January.

An investigation into the case was wrapped up last Tuesday, with the Helsinki Police Department clearing the building association’s board of any wrong doing. A contract for the removal of snow and ice from the roof was found to have been agreed with the service company and the building manager.

Detective Chief Inspector Kari Martikainen said it was the responsibility of the service company to monitor the amount of snow and ice on the roof and the manager’s duty to contact the snow removers. “In this case the danger was not recognised and removed early enough”, Martikainen said in a report by Helsingin Sanomat.

A barrier was placed in front of the building in an attempt to keep pedestrians away from the dangerous area, but it is not clear what side of the barrier the man was on when he was struck. Martikainen said, however, that such precautions could be considered insufficient. “They [barriers] can be moved, and people do not necessarily obey them,” he claimed.

Both the managing director of the service company and the building manager deny culpability. “They both say that they did what they could to prevent this sort of thing from happening. In their view this is rather a case of a tragic accident,” Martikainen said.

He added, however, that excuses given by the accused about the extreme conditions of this year’s winter would not necessarily be acceptable. “One cannot always put the blame on difficult conditions or circumstances. A building has to be in such a shape and it has to be looked after in such a way that nothing like this can happen, even if the conditions were dreadful,” explained Martikainen.