Families ask court to delay Carmel fire medals

The 37 families submitted the petition after learning that the police planned to honor three in a formal ceremony next week.

April 5, 2011 03:35
2 minute read.
Carmel fire

Carmel fire. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The family members of the prison service officers killed in the Carmel forest fire petitioned the High Court on Monday to order a delay in handing out medals of distinction to three police officers who also died in the fire, until after the state comptroller completes the investigation into the events.

A hearing has been scheduled for noon on April 5. The 37 families – whose loved ones were consumed by flames that engulfed a bus on its way to evacuate prison inmates feared in danger from the fire – submitted the petition after learning that the police planned to honor the three, Asst.-Cmdr. Ahuva Tomer, Asst.-Cmdr. Lior Boker and Ch.-Supt. Itzik Malina, in a formal ceremony next week.

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The three officers’ relatives are to receive the medals for bravery in the line of duty from President Shimon Peres.

In the petition, the families claim that it is too early to be handing out medals before a full picture of the events emerges from the investigation.

The three police officers are to be given the posthumous honors for their self-sacrificing behavior during the blaze. The three ran into the flames to help rescue those trapped on the bus and died in the effort.

The families, however, still have questions about the handling of the event by the police. A video taken from aboard the bus shortly before it was consumed by flames and which was shown to the victims’ families only last week, shows police officers entering their vehicles and driving off with 10-meterhigh flames in the background.

The video, claim the families, raises questions about whether the deaths of those on the bus could have been prevented.

“We have the right to know who caused the death of our loved ones. Granting the medals is akin to acquitting those who took part in supervising the event,” read the petition.

“We cannot discount the possibility that the state comptroller will point out any number of failures on the part of the police, or on the part of the firefighters, or on the part of the commanders. Therefore it is difficult to comprehend the decision of the minister [of Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch] and the commissioner to hurry and establish facts even before the causes and circumstances of the catastrophe have been fully investigated,” the petition added.

Aharonovitch’s office responded by stating that the decision to grant the medal of the type in question was solely up to the police commissioner, and not the minister’s decision to make.

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