Shots from helicopter Videos from the flood night
Koblenz/Mainz · 14 months after the flood, police footage from a helicopter on the night of the disaster has surfaced. What happened to the footage after the flood? An overview of what is known so far.
It took more than a year for the flood videos from the police helicopter on the evening of 14 July to come to light. Here is a sequence of events as it is now known.
- The situation centre of the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of the Interior suggests to the Koblenz Police Headquarters (PP) at around 9.30 pm on 14 July that a helicopter be sent out for reconnaissance. The flight is intended to help the police officers get a picture of the situation on the Ahr. Shortly before, the PP had announced that the situation was getting worse. A camper van had drifted off in Dorsel, a camper was missing, several houses had allegedly collapsed in Schuld, and others were threatening to collapse. Places were inaccessible. All this was reported by two officials of the situation centre in the enquiry committee.
- A police helicopter flies over the area of operation from 10 pm. As a rule, during such operations, a live video transmission is sent to the police department in charge, i.e. in this case to the command centre of the Koblenz police station, according to the Ministry of the Interior. Because of the bad weather and the "low altitude that had to be maintained due to weather conditions", this was technically not possible. However, there had been limited radio contact. Photos and videos were taken. The photos and the observations of the crew were transmitted to the Koblenz police station and the situation centre and "were included in the assessment of the situation".
- One of the police officers told the investigating committee that the photos showed "large areas of water" where houses were up to their roofs in water. However, he had not been able to gain "any insights into personal injuries". He had sent the pictures to the office of the Minister of the Interior, Roger Lewentz, at around 11.40 pm. But what happened to the videos, which would have provided a far more impressive view of the situation?
What happens to the videos from the night of the flood?
In the enquiry committee, an official said that the pilot had reported people seeking help in the flooded area and people shining torches at him. He then decided to stop the flight because he did not want to give people hope that they could be rescued. The police helicopter had no winches.
What happens to the files now?
They were too big for electronic transmission, the ministry explained. So they were "saved on a data carrier after the end of the mission and the change of flight crew in the morning" and "kept ready on a USB stick as part of the mission follow-up". The Koblenz Police Department assumes that on 15 July it was decided "that the video data in the morning could no longer make a decisive contribution to the management/assessment of the situation". They had concentrated on the further management of the situation. The stick had not been picked up and apparently remained with the helicopter squadron. In their files, however, there was no indication "that a pick-up apparently did not take place“.
- When the investigative committee began its work last autumn, it had refrained from submitting video material, among other things, "because of the generally very extensive data inventory on the part of the police", according to the ministry. One list, however, contained a reference to video data, including from the police helicopter squadron.
Non-confidential version being prepared
When the committee requested video footage of the situation in February, both the PP Einsatz, Logistik und Technik, to which the helicopter squadron belongs, and the PP Koblenz, as the commissioning agency, reported "no sign". The PP Operations assumed that the stick was at the PP Koblenz because there was no indication in the files that it could be at the helicopter squadron. However, the files were not available at the Koblenz police station.
- In the summer, AfD leader Michael Frisch said he asked the subordinate police stations for videos and reports from the night of the floods and received a tip about the videos from the Mayen police department. Frisch speaks of a "chance find". He obtained an order to obtain the files. Only then did the Ministry of the Interior become aware of "the existence of the video recordings“.
- According to the Landtag press office, the Ministry of the Interior handed over the stick to the Landtag on Monday. One day later, the videos were available for inspection in the file room of the investigative committee. And on Friday they were shown to the politicians. Currently, according to the ministry, a non-confidential version is being prepared.
(Original text: Bernd Eyermann; Translation: Mareike Graepel)