The Public Prosecutor of Río NegroArgentina, charged the owner businessman and an architect who worked at the Hotel Bustillo of the Huinid companywhere three Uruguayans died crushed by mudslide in Junefor a crime of “culpable homicide” as co-authorsinformed the prosecutor of the Betiana Cendón case in a virtual judicial hearing to which she agreed The Observermade this Monday.
The defendants are Claudio Jose Roccatagliatamajority owner of the complex, and Carlos Arbetman, architect responsible for the works in the surroundings of the hotel that are indicated by the Public Ministry as the responsible for the disaster that caused the deaths of Víctor González Giovanelli, his sister Alba and Orlando Casellathree Uruguayans who were in that vacation hotel.
With the presence of various members of the victims’ families, prosecutor Cendón indicated that Arbetman did not request the “license to build” to Barilocheand that Roccatagliata was warned several times about the risks of construction that took place at the top of the Hotel Bustillo.
On June 6, a neighborhood avalanche flooded the two rooms of the three deceased Uruguayans. Víctor González was the first to be found dead in room 105, and on June 8 the other two deceased persons were found in room 107.
The autopsies, detailed Cendón, indicated that Víctor González died of a “secondary internal hemorrhage” that caused the “pulmonary contusions” and the fracture of several ribs caused by the collapse. Alba González and Casellaon the other hand, died as a result of a “mechanical asphyxia due to chest compression and secondary crushing”the prosecutor explained.
Normal rain and a vertical wall
FRANCISCO RAMOS MEJIA / AFP
Aerial image of the avalanche that affected the Hotel Bustillo and caused the death of three Uruguayans
One of the first theories that arose after the accident was that the amount of rain –150 millimeters in the previous hours– caused the collapse of the retaining wall that protected the hotel, and was between this enclosure and the construction of a new center of the complex.
However, the prosecutor explained that a report requested from the Interjurisdictional Basin Authority of the Argentine government determined that the day of the avalanche the level of rain “was normal for that time of yearso retaining walls should have contained” the avalanche.
In addition, on June 10 it was reported that the construction of the new hotel that was going to be on top of the Bustillo had his building permit suspended since 2019after it was verified that in the plans presented to the government it was a construction of 950 square meters, but a complex of around 3,000 m2 was being built.
The retaining wall, nine meters high, He also did not have his plans registered nor was he in the works records of Bariloche. Both constructions are identified as responsible of tragic events.
According to Cendón, several specialists warned those responsible for the hotel and the work that the wall could not be “vertical” as it was builtgiven that “he was destined to get a sentence” for his lack of “ground crushing” and “protection.”
To this is added that, with the need for a parking lot for the new hotel, they sought to build one more meter of parking on the upper floor, but the necessary ground was “badly crushed”. It also affected, according to the prosecutor, the lack of trees in the area that could have helped containmentand that they were withdrawn despite the warnings of specialists, and the lack of water drainage.
Total 335 cubic meters of earth were moved into the hotelwhat ran the risk of being displaced completely, informed the prosecutor of the case. Cendón accused that the constructions that caused the disaster were carried out “without taking into account basic requirements” Y “no knowledge of defenses” necessary for constructions on this soil.
Firefighters work inside the Hotel Bustillo
Cendón requested four months of investigation for the aforementioned charges that are attributed to Roccatagliata and Arbetman. Both Judge Sergio Pichetto and the legal representatives of the defendants accepted the deadline, although the latter They raised their discrepancy with the theory of the Public Ministry.
Pichetto indicated that the primary “cause” of death was the “poor construction of a retaining wall”and he emphasized that this is verified by the report indicating that a normal level of rain fell that day.
He also remarked that Roccatagliata “had been notified” of potential construction problems.
The deadline to investigate will end on May 19, due to the judicial fair in Argentina. The lawyers for the defendants stated that they will also use that time frame to formulate their own defense theory.
The judge too ordered to fix domicile Abertman and Roccatagliata before the possibility of new hearings, to which They will be required to attend.