Illai Nir, 10, died on Sunday after suffering serious head and organ injuries from a fall while hiking two days earlier. The boy’s father, Dr. Omri Nir, died on Friday, trying to save his son.
Doctors at Soroka-University Medical Center in Beersheba tried to save the boy’s life but said he suffered irreversible brain damage, leading to his death. Illai’s organs will be donated at the request of his family.
Illai was climbing a ladder attached to a cliff on the Nahal Tze’elim trail in the Judean Desert, near Masada, when he fell. Omri, 50, from Kfar Vitkin near Netanya, dove off the cliff in an attempt to cushion his son’s fall and died at the scene. Rescue workers said the father was able to wrap himself around Illai and prevent some injuries. Nir was a lecturer on the modern history and politics of Lebanon at the Hebrew University, Ben-Gurion University and Tel Aviv University.
The father and son were part of a hiking group from the North that included 15 children.
“The son fell on his father, the children saw the disaster from above,” Udi Segel, who participated in the hike, told Channel 2. “At one point I heard a bang. I saw the boy fall on the father. The father was able to hold him and they both rolled toward the cliff.”
The route on which the tour group was traveling, along Nahal Tze’elim, is a path for experienced hikers, visited annually by tens of thousands of travelers, including youth and school groups, according to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Like every trekking area, the route is checked and maintained regularly by INPA inspectors, the authority said.
“Accordingly, with every report of a defect or condition that endangers the safety of hikers, whether transmitted by inspectors from the authority or by guides and trekkers in the area, receives complete attention and a quick response, including, if necessary, the closure of the path until the defect is repaired or the danger has passed,” the INPA said. “Upon receiving the update about the event on this route, it was checked again and no defect or safety flaw was found, including on a level of area sign intactness and assistance means for hikers.
“Hikes in nature and open landscapes in certain places by their nature are not completely free of danger, and unfortunately, in this case, there was a major disaster for a reason that remains altogether unknown at this stage,” the authority said.