Two military training teachers arrested in Almaty after grenade explosion in classroom. Who to blame?24 november 2014, 15:43
A grenade explosion in one of the classrooms in Almaty College of Fashion and Design killed a 16-year old student and injured 12 of her classmates on Monday last week.
Their basic military training teacher Gabit Karabalayev was arrested. He was first placed in a pretrial detention jail for 72 hours. Then charges of illegal possession of ammunition and causing death by negligence were pressed against the 47-year old teacher and he was arrested for two months.
But not everyone believes that he is the one to blame.
One of the girls injured in the explosion spoke to the journalists about the events on the deadly morning. She believes it was not Karabalayev’s fault, Tengrinews reports.
Marzhan Adilbek’s voice is weak. She has undergone a chest surgery and breathes with pain after being transferred from the intensive care department on 20 November. She is feeling better now but one can see some traces of shock behind her occasional smiles.
“He [the teacher] gave it (grenade) to us to look at, he said it was a training grenade. He himself was sitting at his desk, writing something. Everybody was looking, passing it from one to another. Then one boy pulled the pin out. First it gave a small pop, then the big explosion came. Then I ran out of the classroom and passed out. I was taken to a hospital,” Marzhan Adilbek spoke about her experience.
“He told us it was a training grenade. He couldn’t have given it (a real grenade) to us on purpose,” she is sure. Her words also contradict the previous reports that the teacher was not in class during the explosion. Marzhan says the teacher, too, was hurt in the explosion, but stayed in the classroom to help.
Marzhan is not the only one who stands on the teacher’s side.
Journalist of Channel Seven found the house, where the teacher lives with his family, and talked to the neighbors.
Everybody there spoke of him kindly. They characterized him as a family guy with a good reputation. They all said he had a big experience in working with children and wouldn't do anything bad.
“Was it Gabit? No way! He is a normal guy. Was he arrested? Why?” said one of the neighbours.
“I just can’t believe that he could do this. No, he couldn’t… He was not connected to extremists, or any sects,” another neighbor Gani Zhumabayev said.
Karabalayev’s wife did not wish to speak on camera. She only said that her husband was a good person.
The neighbors say the investigators better pay attention to what happened before the teacher came to school.
“They need to start with military enlistment office and the previous teacher. Who was there [in the classroom] during the summer break? Whose fingers were there? Maybe even the students are involved," said Eltai Amanbekov, another neighbor.
And so the investiation has done. Almaty district court ordered the arrest of former basic military training teacher of the College of Fashion and Design Yuri Gavrilenko, press secretary of the court Kuandyk Yeshimet said. Like Karabalayev he was arrested for two months.
Charges were brought against Gavrilenko on grounds of Illegal Purchase, Transfer, Sale, Storage, Transportation, or Carrying of Weapons, Ammunition, Explosives, or Explosion Devices.
According to investigators, Gavrilenko purchased a real RGD-5 grenate and UZRGM-2 fuze in Almaty in 2010. He kept these in the storage room of the basic military training class of Almaty College of Fashion and Design. It has not been specified what the former teacher acquired the grenade for or why he left it in the school cabinet after leaving the school.
Karabalayev started working in the College in September 2013. The question remains whether he could distinguish between a replica and a real grenade that was allegedly left in the classroom storage by Gavrilenko.
Retired lieutenant colonel and teacher of basic military training in Almaty Public School №6 Victor Mager told Tengrinews that that the main difference between a fighting grenade and a training replica used in Kazakhstan was its colour: real grenades were green and training replicas were black. A model is almost identical in weight to the real grenade. The only difference is the weight of the explosive inside the fighting grenade. But to make the models weight accurate sand or scrap metal is sometimes placed inside instead of the explosive.
When asked whether it was possible to confuse a real grenade with a training grenade provided that they were both coated with black paint he said: "Yes, they are easy to confuse". But if that grenade was green the teacher should have identified it on sight, he added.
Another student Alina Dzhakupbayeva also spoke about the incident and her version is more details and casts more light on the picture.
“The teacher gave us the grenade during the basic military training class and told us not to pull the pin. It [the grenade] went around the class, everyone was looking. And then one boy pulled the pin and put it (grenade) on the table of a girl. And then in 3-4 seconds it exploded,” Dzhakupbayeva said in the hospital.
Her mother says the left side of the girl's body is covered with cuts: her hands, back and even face. She blames the teacher of the class for what happened supporting her claims by the fact that it was Karabalayev who gave the grenade to the students.
Parents of other students interviewed by Tengrinews in the hospital refrain from blaming anyone. They point out that the teacher was helping after the explosion. They said it was more important to investigate the origin of the grenade.
They thanked the hospital and the Ministry of Health for their coordinated work to save the children, most of whom are now getting better.
Only three of the teenagers remain in the hospital's intensive care department. One student will be soon transferred to the department of neurosurgery.
As for the rest of us, we are still waiting for the full recreation of events that happened on that tragic morning. Earlier, there were suggestions that the grenade exploded in the hands of Svetlana Yakovleva, who was the only person to die. However, relatives of the victims said that the explosion occurred behind her back. The doctors also confirmed this: Svetlana had shrapnel wounds to the back.
By Dinara Urazova (Alisher Akhmetov and Irina Gribovskaya contributed to the story)