A year ago, the snow-covered roof of an ice skating rink in southern Germany collapsed, killing 15. As the town remembers the victims, some point out that the disaster has led to more stringent safety checks.
Heavy snowfall as well as structural defects caused the collapse of the ice rink's roof
Church bells rang out for six minutes in Bad Reichenhall, Bavaria on Tuesday to remember 15 people who were killed a year ago when the snow-covered roof of the town’s ice skating rink caved in. 33 people were trapped under it, only 18 of those survived.
A combination of factors -- structural weakness, a lack of official checks and heavy snowfall -- caused the community ice skating rink’s roof in Bad Reichenhall to collapse at 3.54 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2006, according to experts.
Three-day rescue operation
18 of the 33 people inside the hall made it out alive
Witnesses and survivors remembered the harrowing scenes at the site of the disaster as rescue workers attempted to extricate people from under the mangled roof.
"When I heard what had happened, I thought someone had to be making a very bad joke," said Rudolf Schirckhoffer. "But when I got down there and saw the scene myself, the only thing I could think, was ‘what can be left to save in all that.’"
Rescue workers did manage to save 18 lives in an operation that lasted nearly three days. But 12 children and three women were killed by the tons of falling rubble.
"We saw casualties on the street and in the hall," said Florian Halter from the Federal Chamber of Architects, who was at the scene. "The rescue mission itself was very difficult from a psychological point of view. I must admit, I’ll be relieved when the anniversary is over."
Tragedy led to safer conditions
The tragedy led to safer conditions elsewhere, said one building expert
However, architect Ludwig Wetzelsberger points out the accident in Bad Reichenhall led other towns to take safety inspections more seriously.
"As bad as it was, I think Bad Reichenhall actually saved many other lives because numerous structural inspections were carried out after the accident," he said.
As the church bells chimed at 3:52 p.m., the mayor of Bad Reichenhall laid a wreath at the site of the accident. Victims’ families attended a private church ceremony.
Rudolf Schirckhoffer still thinks about that day every time he drives past the site.
"Of course you think back," he said. "You also ask yourself why on earth did this have to happen? But that’s just the way it is, and we have to live with it."