Owner of land where Julen Roselló died will argue he was killed in rescue

Lawyers for David Serrano have presented a report to the judge in charge of the case, which claims the two-year-old was killed by impacts from a pick and not from the fall itself

Rescue crews on the site of the accident in January.
Rescue crews on the site of the accident in January.Paco Guzmán

Lawyers representing the owner of the rural property on which two-year-old Julen Roselló fell down a 110-meter borehole in January have presented a court in Málaga, southern Spain, with a report that argues that the youngster died during the efforts to rescue him and not during the actual fall itself.

The accident involving Julen took place on January 13, when the toddler fell into the hole measuring barely 25 centimeters across, and which had been excavated without the proper permissions in a bid to locate underground water. A massive rescue effort swung into action in the subsequent days after the incident took place, but after a 13-day search mission, specialist miners and the Civil Guard located Julen‘s body under a plug of earth around 70 meters down the hole.

Serrano is the only person so far facing criminal charges over the accident, and is being investigated for involuntary manslaughter

Julen had been on the property in Totalán, Málaga, with his parents for a family lunch. The land belongs to David Serrano, the partner of a relative of the Roselló family. Serrano is the only person so far facing criminal charges over the accident, and is being investigated for involuntary manslaughter.

The report that has been handed over to the court was put together by Jesús María Flores, an architect who publicly criticized the rescue operation on January 20, a week after the toddler had fallen into the borehole and while efforts to locate the child were ongoing. Just hours after his statements were made on a TV show, the Málaga Architects Association distanced itself from his opinions and expressed their support and confidence in the technical team involved in the work.

The document sent to the judge analyzes information, recordings and other materials that make up part of the legal brief to arrive at conclusions that “allow for the assumption” that the death of the young boy “could have taken place during the rescue efforts.”

The defense for Serrano specifically points to a tool used during the first hours of the work. “The use of a pick, 10 impacts in total, between 5.30pm and 9pm on the day of the incident [Julen had fallen into the hole just before 2pm], is the only thing that physically could have caused the wounds to the minor’s head and skull,” reads the report, to which news agency Europa Press has had access. “The fact that eight hairs from the minor were found on the end of the pick after the last time it was removed, three of which contained the root, leads us to ask: What other alternative theory apart from a direct impact against the head of the minor could explain the presence of these biological remains on the end of the pick?” the report sent to the judge reads.

To reach these conclusions, the report also takes into account the preliminary autopsy – carried out the day after Julen’s body was found – that indicated that the death was caused “as a consequence of a severe head trauma that affected the temporal and frontotemporal area” of the minor, injuries that took place the same day as the fall.

The defense believes that these blows were found on the side of the head, “where it would be difficult for a blow of that magnitude to be sustained during the fall.”

The report states that the last four impacts of the pick “penetrated at least 35 centimeters into the plug of earth that was on top of Julen”

Sources close to the investigation told EL PAÍS at the time that the initial theory was that the injuries were the result of the impact of the walls of the tunnel as the child fell down the borehole.

The report argues that the minor “was, from the very first moments after his fall, under a layer of earth and material that was between 10 and 15 centimeters deep,” and states that the last four impacts of the pick “penetrated at least 35 centimeters into the plug of earth that was on top of Julen. As such, the lawyers are calling for “greater clarification of the facts,” given that this technical study “allows for the assumption that the death may have happened during the rescue effort and not during the fall.”

The defense lawyers are calling for the technical heads of the operation and fire crews and civil guards who took part in the rescue to give evidence before the judge in charge of the probe.

Hope until the end

The rescue effort to find Julen captured media attention the world over, with hope held out until the last minute that by some kind of miracle he would be pulled out of the borehole alive. The story was all the more poignant given that the two-year-old’s parents, José Roselló and Victoria García, lost their first son, Óliver, when he was just three years old to a heart condition.

The investigation into what happened will also involve Antonio Sánchez, the head of a company called Triben Perforaciones and the person who drilled the borehole in the first place. Sánchez has told the Civil Guard that he had left the hole plugged with a rock. “I covered it up,” he told EL PAÍS. “They have modified it and lowered the ground.” He added that when he saw the location of the accident, he could see that earth had been moved around after he had completed his job.

At a press conference in early February, David Serrano said that he had covered the hole with two concrete blocks at 1pm on January 13 – just before the toddler fell down the shaft. Serrano also maintained that he had warned people in the area about the hole. “I thought someone’s foot could slip in and break, but I never thought a child would fit,” he said.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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