Wash watermelons before eating – Newspaper Kommersant No. 165 (7127) dated 09/14/2021

The chlorine-containing poisonous substance cygatrine, which is used for disinfection from insects, caused the death of an elderly woman and her 15-year-old granddaughter in the Lublino metropolitan area. Their mysterious death from severe damage to internal organs caused a huge resonance, and investigators, police officers, rescuers, chemists and doctors were thrown into its investigation, as in an emergency, when it comes to the spread of a dangerous infection or the use of toxic substances. For several days, the experts checked the ventilation systems, water and gas supply of the house where the victims lived, but everything turned out to be much more trivial, and therefore more terrible. The original version of the poisoning with watermelon, which was doused with poison during the sanitation of the store, was confirmed. Although the family noticed the unpleasant “garlic” smell of summer-autumn berries, they still began to eat it. Within the framework of the criminal case, the man who was carrying out the disinfection has already been detained, but it is quite possible that this is only the beginning.

The investigation into the death of 61-year-old Valentina Petrunina and her 15-year-old granddaughter Polina resembled the elimination of the consequences of a large-scale emergency with the spread of a deadly virus or a chemical warfare agent leading to the rapid death of others. This was due to mysterious and at first not explained in any way events that preceded their death.

An elderly woman, her granddaughter and 38-year-old mother of the latter, Elena, were hospitalized by ambulance teams with an interval of several hours from their apartment at 16 Sovkhoznaya Street. Doctors diagnosed them with toxic damage to internal organs with an unidentified substance. Despite all the measures taken, only Elena was saved, and two other victims soon died due to multiple organ failure. The surviving woman said that on the eve of the deterioration, on September 7, her family bought a watermelon from the Magnit store, located on the first floor of their house, which they ate for two days. Only her husband did not try the watermelon, who had no symptoms of poisoning.

However, melon poisoning, although it was considered, was still not the only version.

Although Elena explained that she washed the purchased berry with soda, on September 8, she noted a “pungent smell” in the apartment, similar to garlic.

This led to the idea of ​​the investigators of the 1st Directorate for Investigation of Particularly Important Cases of the Main Investigation Directorate of the ICR in Moscow, who opened a criminal case under Part 3 of Art. 238 (provision of services that do not meet safety requirements, resulting in the death of two or more persons by negligence; up to ten years in prison) of the Criminal Code, on the possible poisoning of a family through ventilation, water or gas supply systems. It should be noted that at the same time, several more people from the ill-fated entrance number 4 of the house on Sovkhoznaya Street turned to the doctors with complaints of deteriorating health. Moreover, they mainly lived on the upper floors, including apartments from the corner riser next to the housing of the deceased grandmother and her granddaughter.

In one case, a family of four – natives of Tajikistan – also reported that in recent days they ate watermelons, bought both in Magnit and in a nearby shopping pavilion.

As a result, huge forces were involved in the investigation, including the TFR, the police, Rospotrebnadzor employees, doctors, civil defense and emergency specialists, and infectious disease specialists. The investigation was and continues to be conducted in various directions, starting with the hospitalization of the injured by the doctors of the Puchkov ambulance station, and the process of their treatment, to the study of all the “ins and outs” of house No. 16 on Sovkhoznaya Street itself. In particular, all the apartments in the entrance, the entrance itself, where washes were taken everywhere for detecting infection or poison, household chemicals, medicines, food leftovers from living quarters, ventilation ducts, gas supply systems were repeatedly inspected, water samples were taken from taps, air and etc. It turned out that the air supply system is independent and in no way connected with non-residential premises, in that force “Magnet”, and no poisonous substances or foreign objects were found in it.

Policemen at the house on Sovkhoznaya Street, where the deceased grandmother and granddaughter lived

Photo: Irina Buzhor, Kommersant

The State Budgetary Institution “Zhilischnik” of the Lyublino district, which since 2014 has been serving a nine-story building on Sovkhoznaya Street, got under a separate check. We studied in detail all the documentation of the building built in 1970, the terms and conditions of repairs and disinfection in it (there were none recently), financial and reporting documentation and in general everything that could somehow help shed light on the causes of the tragedy. In total, they ordered about 40 chemical examinations only, and interrogated several dozen people. As a result, experts nevertheless began to lean towards the version of poisoning with watermelon, which somehow got deadly chemicals. “At present, the priority version of the investigation is the violation of the rules when conducting disinsection in a chain grocery store,” the investigating authorities explained to Kommersant.

According to representatives of the ICR, “employees of the company for disinsection of a grocery store were immediately interrogated, documentation was obtained, and samples of the substances used in this procedure were seized.” All this gave a preliminary picture of what had happened: on September 6, two days before the purchase of a watermelon by the injured family, a disinfection from insects was carried out at Magnit. The process itself, by the way, got on the surveillance cameras, and the shooting became the most important piece of evidence. Apparently, in this case, we are not yet talking about any malicious intent, but there is, most likely, a monstrous slovenliness, but, be that as it may, the poison – it turned out to be a chlorine-containing and deadly substance for humans, cygatrine – when spraying a room ended up on melons.

A cordoned-off store “Magnet” on Sovkhoznaya Street

Photo: Irina Buzhor, Kommersant

The Moscow department of Rospotrebnadzor reported on Monday that the remains of the poison from the apartment of the deceased woman and girl and from the store were identical. “Currently, a 39-year-old employee of a private company, who is carrying out one of the types of disinfection of the retail space, has been taken to a department of the department, where investigative actions are being carried out with him,” the State Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia said in Moscow. According to Kommersant, we are talking about an employee of the Regional Center for Disinfection, Anton Kotov. The LLC itself is going to be checked by the prosecutor’s office. It cannot be ruled out that this criminal case will not be limited to one detainee, since the devil-may-care attitude of one ordinary employee of the disinfection company can hardly be explained by the complete lack of control over him from someone else.

And it’s even difficult to imagine how many times and when such a poison fell not only on watermelons, but also on other products, since sanitation is a routine, mandatory and regular procedure not only for shops, but also for cafes and restaurants, as well as offices, etc. etc.

“Magnit does not have the official conclusion of Rospotrebnadzor and found out about it from the media,” the press service of the company told Kommersant, noting that “traces of disinfestation agents are mentioned in reports with reference to the supervisory agency, which speaks of potentially low level of concentration. ” “I would also like to note that the information voiced by Rospotrebnadzor does not explain the cases of hospitalization of seven other residents of houses on Sovkhoznaya Street and does not contain any conclusions about the presence of any connection with what happened in the house,” they explained there. That is why “Magnit” urged to refrain from conclusions about the causes of harm to health and death of victims on the basis of the message of Rospotrebnadzor “due to the lack of official information on the causes of death.” At the same time, they assured that the company would continue to “assist the competent authorities in investigating the causes of the tragedy,” and also “initiate an unscheduled inspection of all its contractors for the provision of disinfestation and sanitization services and strengthen sanitary control measures in stores.”

Sergey Sergeev, Dmitry Shestoperov



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