Monday, April 23, 2012

2012 Summer Event Season Post First Death

April 18, 2012 - Jerusalem, Israel.  A twenty year old female IDF medical corps officer, Second Lieutenant Hila Betzaleli, died from injuries sustained when the over-stage canopy for an outdoor event collapsed onto her.  Seven others were injured, too.  The incident happened as the Color Guard soldiers were rehearsing for the National Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day ceremony on Mount Herzl.  According to reports, it was very windy at the time of the collapse, and a truss laden with lights fell when a cable failed to stabilize the structure.  The structure was about 10 meters tall.  An initial investigation revealed that a cable supporting the lighting fixture truss was torn apart and as a result, the fixtures collapsed and dragged a concrete cube that weighs a few tons.

Emergency services began treating the wounded shortly after the collapse and there are fears that some people may be trapped under the debris. A spokesman for Magen David Adom said that it was the sound and lighting system that collapsed onto the stage during rehearsal.

Eight of the people involved in the erection of the stage were arrested and held pending further hearings.  Four were later released, and the remainder were released under house arrest pending further investigation.  The four detained were being held on charges of negligent manslaughter. 
The four suspects, including the owner of the company that built the lighting rig, Elad Lavie, the company engineer, Oren Varshavky, the security consultant Yitzhak Zuker, and the director of the ceremony, Alex Sela, were released to seven days house arrest. They cannot contact anyone for 30 days, as the investigation is continuing. All the suspects must also pay financial guarantees.

Design Group, the company that erected the lighting fixtures said in response that it adhered to the instructions of engineers and supervisors and did not veer from safety instructions.

"The installation was not built today and has been erected for more than 10 days," the company said.

"It has been checked by safety engineers, passed two examinations and received the necessary permits. Design Group was responsible of following the instructions given by the engineers." 

Elad Lavie’s lawyer, Kobi Kamar, said Lavie still stands by his claim that the company received approval for the structure. Kamar denied that the suspects are playing a game by shifting the blame around and implicating each other.

According to Israel Army Radio, the suspects stand accused of forging documents and paying bribes to secure the Mount Herzl job and others.

Jerusalem District Police Department  Commander Manny Yitzhaki said that police were investigating every aspect of the incident. “We will investigate the facts one by one to understand how this happened and who is responsible,” he said.

Despite the tragic event, the authorities have decided that the ceremonies at Mount Herzl will go ahead as scheduled.

Sigalit Bezaleli, Hila’s mother, has been invited light a torch at the ceremony with Knesset Speaker Rueven Rivlin, a family representative announced on Monday. “The family welcomes the decision to have the ceremony continue as planned – this is what Hila would have wanted,” the family said in a statement.

Family friend, Bar Sitton, noted that Har Herzl was like a “second home” to Bezaleli, whose mother Sigalit has worked for 16 years in the administration of the site.  He added that it was tragically symbolic for Sigalit to be honored at the very place where Hila lost her life and where she is buried.  Sitton said that Sigalit Bezaleli is dedicating her torch to halting the “Israeli culture of carelessness.”

Follow-up: 2014-04-30 - Six Charged with Criminal Negligence and Involuntary Manslaughter after Israeli courts consider the facts.  Charges were brought against five people and a staging company associated with the April 18, 2012 collapse of a stage structure that killed an IDF officer and injured seven other military personnel.

On April 30, 2014 Jerusalem District Court noted that all those charged in the incident would have the opportunity — which could also be waived — to meet with prosecutors in the case for a hearing on their involvement in the incident.

The five individuals charged, according to reports, included Elad Lavi, Doron Lavi, Taimuraz (Tomer) Laonidzeh, Yitzhak Zucker, and Oren Varshavsky.  The staging company owned and run by the Lavis — Itzuv Bama — was named as a sixth party charged in the accident

The named individuals include the founders and CEO and COO of the implicated staging company (Elad and Doron Lavi) along with its director of operations (Laonidzeh). Zucker and Varshavsky were, respectively, the safety consultant and engineer working on the project.

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