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Complaints About Safety At Karelia Camp Existed For Years Online

  • Anna Shamanska

Children return to the Syamozero Park Hotel in Russia's Pryazhinsky District after at least 14 died on a lake when boats capsized on a lake.

Children return to the Syamozero Park Hotel in Russia's Pryazhinsky District after at least 14 died on a lake when boats capsized on a lake.

A message on a Russian parenthood forum from June 2015 reads like an eerie precursor to the tragedy in northwestern Russia that took the lives of at least 14 children over the weekend.

"Taking into account how the camp is organized, absence of accidents is a question of extreme luck," says the post on

On the evening of June 18, four camp instructors and 47 teenagers boarded two boats and a raft at a camp in Karelia. Soon after, a storm caused two boats to capsize and at least 14 children between 12 and 15 years of age to die.

The rest of the children survived by making their way to nearby islands and spending the night there.

Local authorities have insisted that the children’s camp, called Park-Hotel Syamozero, had not been suspected of any gross violations.

But for at least three years, parents of the campers -- aged between seven and 17 -- have been complaining in online message boards about the camp.

Poor Conditions

Back in 2015, according to a user nicknamed LuckyDad, 600 children came to the camp at the same time. There were two or three adult instructors for each camp group of 50 children, he wrote.

WATCH: Teenagers Killed As Boats Capsize At Russian Camp

Some kids lived in tents previously used by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry. "The mattresses and sleeping bags were terrible -- wet, dirty, and smelly,” wrote one mother in July 2015 on another forum, Other parents complained that children were allowed to smoke inside their tents.

"At night, one girl’s mattress caught fire because of a cigarette that wasn't put out (officially, they said it was caused by an antimosquito coil)," LuckyDad wrote in June 2015.

Drinking And Gambling

Most of the time, campers were left to fend for themselves, according to the complaints. “They are simply sitting around a campfire for five hours and waiting for the soup to cook,” an anonymous user wrote about his child’s experience in September 2013.

Message board posters claimed many children smoked, drank alcohol, played cards for money, and sold each other food. "Troubled teenagers beat up the weaker ones, especially those who try to complain to the camp instructors, and go unpunished," a mother wrote in July 2015.

ALSO READ: Five Camp Administrators Detained After Russian Boat Tragedy

Other parents, some of whom paid as much as $470 for a child’s two-week stay at the camp, complained of the opposite extreme, particularly for older campers.

One mother wrote that her 15-year old went camping in the wild four times, and every time they stayed out for three or four days. “And that was in spite of the weather. It was six degrees at night, northern wind, rain,” she wrote in July 2015.

Unsafe Rafting, Kayaking

Another mother wrote that after a long hike, children were sent rafting down the Shuya River with only three hours of rest.

LuckyDad wrote that there was no safety training before his child went rafting down the same river.

“They simply packed their things and left,” he wrote.

Commenting on his post, a mother added that her children were allowed to swim in nearby lakes without any adult supervision.

Unskilled Camp Instructors

Parents complained that the instructors were too young and didn’t know how to communicate with teenagers.

One mother claimed that the supervisors would beat up children.

Another woman, nicknamed Irina Minina, wrote that her daughter was too scared to complain to the camp instructor about anything: “[The girl was] so scared of her, the way she yelled.”

Often instructors would drink alcohol -- sometimes in the company of their young campers, according to the posts.

A father, nicknamed ss111, wrote that an instructor would show up drunk to take the children hiking. He added that he had to pick his child up early from the camp: “The kid cried and asked -- 'take me away from this hell.'"

Absence Of Medical Help

Young campers often required medical assistance, but Park-Hotel Syamozero failed in this respect, too, parents claimed.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

"If your child falls ill, the best-case scenario is that once a day he’ll get nose drops," wrote an anonymous parent in 2013. “The doctor has no time to help everybody, it’s like a line to a museum there.”

In August 2015, a mother wrote that her child came back from the camp with pneumonia. “He shares a hospital room with a boy from the same camp,” she wrote.

Overall, at least six parents who exchanged messages on the parenthood forums claimed to have filed complaints or aired their grievances with the Prosecutor-General's Office and Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being.

About This Blog

Using regional media and the reporting of Current Time TV's wide network of correspondents, Anna Shamanska will tell stories about people and society you are unlikely to read anywhere else.