Sunday, 20 March 2016

Safety first

I cannot get the accident of president’s limousine out of my head. I would have probably gotten over the affair, had journalists of Rzeczpospolita not cast a new light on the circumstances of the accident. Findings the journalists have come into possession (probably from Opole prosecutor’s office which runs investigation on the smash-up) paint an appalling picture of a string of wrongdoings that fortunately have not had tragic consequences.

The key takeaways are as follows:
1. The notorious six-year-old tyre was rendered out of use and waited in a warehouse for being recycled. Since the new tyres were not in place (previous tyres had been damaged on 20 January 2016 and new ones for some reasons have not come in), it was decided to put in the worn-out tyres, as the limousine was badly needed to be roadworthy.
2. On 4 March 2016 when the accident took place, the limousine covered a 100-metres long steep, icy, stony slope uphill to carry the president directly to a ski-lift in Karpacz. The terrain should not have been trespassed by any vehicle other than SUV of the Mountain Rescue Services (GOPR).
3. On the way from Karpacz to Wisła, on A4 motorway, the driver ignored warnings from the vehicle’s computer of too low pressure in the tyre. The quoted reason for the negligence was haste to make up for a one-hour delay in president’s trip schedule.
4. The problem with pressure in the tyre could have been ignored for a while, had the vehicle moved at the speed no higher than 80 kmph (the special tyres assembled in VIP-carrying cars are designed to withstand up to 100 kilometres nearly flat, provided the car does not exceed a specified velocity), while the actual speed was above 160 kmph.
5. The column of VIP vehicles was followed by a civil car, driven by a social media expert from the president’s office.

A few heads have rolled immediately after the accident, however senior management of BOR who oversee security of the most prominent officials, shirk responsibility for all the negligence that put the president’s life in jeopardy.

Who is then to blade for the accident? As always, the long-gone nominees of the previous government. Current executives of BOR have filed charges to prosecutor’s office against their predecessors (its content is confidential, but we know the a procedure of tyre maintenance, allegedly wrongful, had been set up in line with BMW’s guidelines).

It is beyond all doubt those no longer in service:
- crept into the garage in which the limousine was parked and installed the worn-out tyres,
- drove the BMW up the icy hill,
- ignored on-board computer signals,
- raced 170 kmph on a busy motorway.
The way BOR headship explain away the mess they have given assent for is ludicrous. PiS have managed to fire and hire thousands of people. PO- and PSL-affiliated henchmen were kicked out of their warm chairs and replaced by PiS partisans, but they have not managed to review safety procedures (which they claim were faulty) nor to come by a spare set of tyres. The pitiable blame-storming also bears testimony of competencies of new management of BOR. An average car user knows after buying a second-had car or taking over a car from someone else, it is within their best interest to have the car thoroughly inspected. An average driver also knows a tyre should be replaced after five years regardless of tread depth, since mixture from which it is made loses its properties. Exceptions to this might be taken by those who drive calmly around town, but not those travelling at high speeds on motorways. BOR’s primary responsibility is to make sure the statesmen are properly protected. The 4 March 2016 incident proves they have buggered it up all the way, sadly.

Semblances with the Smolensk tragedy spring to mind naturally. In both cases the list of irregularities that led up to the catastrophe is long and in both cases the tragic end was the aftermath of many, not one, misdeeds, including the crucial one – attempting to stick to the agenda at all cost. It finally needs to be spoken out – people responsible for security of the statesmen should always set safety procedures ahead of agendas, schedules, delays as well as comfort and whims of politicians. The (yet another) skiing foray of the president shows lesson from the Smolensk tragedy have not been learnt. I wonder what else the investigation reveals and how politicians of the ruling party, good at denying evident facts, react to those findings.

1 comment:

DC said...

Thanks for this and previous posts. Much of what you've written about hasn't found it's way to English language news websites.

I'm glad you drew the parallel to Smolensk. You can't have an effectice Safety Management System until everyone in the chain of command, down to the guy who changes the tire, feels he will be rewarded rather than punished for saying "Wait. Stop. This isn't safe." Getting to this mindset can take years, and may not be ppssible with lots of news about people losing jobs for political reasons, rather than questions of merit.