Israeli arrests after lighting rig collapse in Jerusalem

November 2012

Live events sector


Judges in Jerusalem have extended the detention of four people arrested on suspicion of involvement in the collapse of a lighting rig at Mount Herzl in Israel, which killed a woman soldier and injured seven others. IDF 2nd Lt. Hila Bezaleli, was killed during rehearsals for the Independence Day ceremony at the national cemetery site. Initially three suspects were held: Oren Warshavsky, who was said to have been the engineer for the rig; Itzik Zucker, the site’s safety manager; and Elad Lavi, the vice president of Itzuv Bama, the firm that had been the successful bidder to produce the Independence Day event.

All three were ordered to be released by a magistrate’s court judge but at the request of the police, the order was stayed to give the police an opportunity to appeal to the District Court and explain the responsibilities, relationships  and working practices at the site. District Court Judge Joseph Shapira ordered the three to remain in custody. Although Magistrate’s Court Judge Haim Li-Ran had initially taken the police to task for acting too quickly to arrest the three, Judge Shapira ruled the action was justified out of concern that the suspects might flee, or that that they could attempt to interfere with the investigation. A fourth suspect, Alex Sela, the producer of the Independence Day ceremony, was also arrested  and the request for his continued detention was also based on concern that he could interfere with the investigation. Police told the court that a number of people remained to be questioned over the fatal accident, including some who are Sela’s subordinates. Sela’s firm, Sela Productions, has been involved in a number of major events in recent years, including events related to the Jerusalem Marathon, and has done considerable work with the Jerusalem municipality.

Eye witnesses say they saw the rig – a large bridge-like structure, between 15 and 20 meters in height that crosses the entire area where rehearsals for the ceremony were taking place – shaking, and then falling.  “Strong” winds were reported by witnesses who said they saw the rig swaying. Police said they had substantial suspicion of negligence with respect to the planning, construction and supervision of the lighting rig that collapsed. Police superintendent Eli Cohen also said the account of events provided to police by the suspects were at variance with one another. “The engineer [Warshavsky] says he never received the work,” Cohen recounted. “The safety adviser [Zucker] contends there was an engineer who was responsible, and the employees of [Itzuv] Bama contend that, from the moment they finished constructing the structure and transferred it to the producer [Sela], the responsibility rests with the organisers of the ceremony.

On Friday, Sela’s lawyer, Elad Rath, said his client had expressed concerns about the safety of the structure before the accident, but Sela was then assured that everything was fine. Several minutes before the rig collapsed, one of Sela’s representatives on the scene called Sela to express concern over the safety and called Itzuv Bama, but at that point it was too late, the lawyer added.

Police investigators said that at least one of the suspects involved in the safety inspection of the stage equipment would likely face charges of causing death through negligence, rather than the lighter wrongful death charges.

Itzuv Bama, which was awarded a contract by the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry to produce the Independence Day ceremony and is considered a leading player in its field and has been involved in organizing major events in Israel and abroad, from official ceremonies to rock concerts. and images at the Jerusalem Post here

No Comments

Comments are closed.