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The families of the miners killed in the "Soko" mine demand justice for the 8 dead: They suffocated in 40 seconds

Attorney Bratislav Jovanović, representative of the injured parties, announced at the press conference that the complaint was filed due to legal deficiencies in the actions of the prosecutor.

The families of eight miners who died in an accident in the “Soko” coal mine on April 1 last year filed an objection today to the decision of the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Aleksinac from January 5 of this year, which rejected the criminal charges filed by the Ministry of Mining and Energy against 14 persons for of a serious offense against general security.

Attorney Bratislav Jovanović, representative of the injured party, announced at the press conference that the objection was filed due to legal deficiencies in the actions of the prosecutor.

– We came to the incredible information that the republican mining inspector established that the “Soko” mine had been digging pits for 14 months without a work permit. As a result, eight people died and the entire shift of 67 could have perished, luck in the accident was that one rock blocked the pit, preventing further circulation and explosion of methane – said Jovanović.

He pointed out that the goal of the families demanding justice for their dead is not to close the mine.

– 600 people are employed in that mine, and they support entire families from that work, our goal is not for them to lose their jobs. However, we must point out some things in order to prevent further accidents. In the “Soko” mine, exploitation is carried out using an outdated method, miners dig pits like moles, the oxygen supply is provided by engines that spark, which is why there are methane detectors that automatically turn them off when there is an increased concentration of this gas. This also happened during this accident, the miners were left without oxygen, and the republic’s mining engineer determined that they died in just 40 seconds. The miners therefore suffocated because the ventilation system was turned off, which was necessary because otherwise there would have been an explosion of methane and everyone would have died. For this reason, it was necessary to switch to a more modern method of coal exploitation, because in 2016, project documentation for the so-called the Czech system which is much safer. It implies that the ore is mined from top to bottom, in layers, thus enabling four levels of oxygen supply and protection of miners in case methane appears – explained Stojanović.

He pointed out that, according to his knowledge, it was abandoned because there was no money.

– The “Resavica” mine, within which “Soko” also operates, decided in 2020 to continue with this unsafe and outdated method of work because they did not provide funds for its application and they wanted continuity in work. Our goal is to enable work in accordance with the decision of the republican inspector to create safe working conditions through the application of the Czech model. Our goal is that such accidents do not happen, and if they do happen, that the responsible persons are convicted as an example to other managers in order to provide their workers with safe working conditions – continued Stojanović.

Commenting on the next steps, the representative of the families pointed out that they will be definitively declared after the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Niš decides on the objection to the decision of the Aleksinac OJT.

– We do not want to prejudge the decision of the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office on our complaint, for now we do not plan to file a criminal complaint. However, if it is rejected, we will file criminal charges against those responsible for a criminal offense punishable by two to 12 years in prison. What I will do by the end of the week is to initiate, through the National Assembly, the formation of an inquiry committee that will review the work of state bodies, primarily the Ministry of Mining and Energy and the Prosecutor’s Office. As far as the European Court of Human Rights is concerned, there is a legal basis for us to turn to them as well, that is the Mučibabić judgment against Serbia, it is about a man who also died in an incident at work. However, before we do that, we have to exhaust all means before the domestic authorities – explained the lawyer.

The press conference was also attended by Dragana Stajić, the wife of the martyred miner Bojan, who assessed the dismissal of the criminal charges against those responsible for the death of eight people as an inadmissible act.

– I did not expect such a decision because we have been waiting for it for so long, I am very disappointed. We will go on, we will not stop, I have no reason to give up, on the contrary, I have a baby at home who has to find out why he is growing up without a father. Regarding the decision of the Aleksinac prosecutor’s office to dismiss the criminal complaint, I can only say that it is pathetic and that it represents another blow to families and trampling on our people. It is even more terrible that we received this decision during the New Year’s holidays, which were already difficult for us because we are celebrating them for the first time without our loved ones – said this woman from Aleksin.

Dalibor Zlatković, whose own brother Darko died in the same accident, emphasized that he is ready to fight for justice for his dead brother, however long it takes.

– After ten months, we find out that no one is guilty, it’s a shame, it’s impossible. We will persevere until the end, ten, twenty years, however long it takes. We have to find out the truth, something has to be done, a lot more with that slander, we want to know who is to blame for the fact that eight people are no longer there – said the indignant man.

– On July 26 last year, the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Aleksinac completed the investigation of the accident in the “Soko” mine for the first time and established that there were no grounds for criminal prosecution of anyone ex officio. A month later, the Ministry of Mining and Energy filed criminal charges against 14 persons it considered responsible for the accident in the “Soko” mine to the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Niš, as well as two charges for economic offenses against the public company for underground coal mining “Resavica”. and the Belgrade company “Teragold & Co”. In the middle of October last year, the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Niš transferred the case again to the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Aleksinac with complete documentation and instructions for further action. After examining the witnesses and presenting other evidence, this judicial institution remained with the decision it made the first time.

A terrible accident in a coal mine occurred when dangerous methane gas leaked from part of the mine, during the demolition of a wall. On that occasion, miners Branko Čokorilo, Bojan Stajić, Bratislav Živković, Branislav Zlatanović, Petar Petrović, Darko Zlatković, Nenad Trivunac and Radovan Grujić died due to suffocation.

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