An IDF soldier surveys the damage from a fallen lighting rig on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Justice Ministry plans to file indictments against five people and a corporation for negligent manslaughter in the death of IDF Lt. Hila Betzaleli during a rehearsal for the Independence Day ceremony on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl in 2012.
Tuesday’s announcement follows a similar announcement in April, but also a more recent last-shot pre-indictment hearing where the state rejected all of the defendants arguments for their innocence.
Those being charged are Doron and Elad Lavie, the owners of the Itzuv Bima company, which is also being charged and that put up the lighting scaffolding that collapsed and killed Betzaleli; Taimorez Leonidze, the company’s operations manager; Oren Varshavski, the structure’s engineer; and Yitzhak Zucker, who served as the safety consultant for the event.
The charges are expected to also include negligently causing bodily injury.
The announcement of an intention to indict the men came two and a half years after the tragedy, following an extensive and complex investigation into the event, the collection of evidence and a six-month process related to the pre-indictment hearing.
The accident occurred on April 18, 2012, when a 10-meter-tall steel light rigging system collapsed.
Soldiers from the Color Guard that were rehearsing for the ceremony were trapped underneath the large lighting truss when it fell shortly after 3 p.m.
Hila Bezaleli, 20, was killed and another soldier was critically injured. Two other victims were lightly injured and treated at Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Hadassah University Medical Center-Ein Kerem.
The steel structure was wavering dangerously in the wind, and someone called out, “It’s going to fall!” before the entire structure crashed to the ground, witnesses said.
Not long before the April announcement, an opinion was received from experts at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa to serve as a strong foundation for pointing the finger at the defendants from a technical perspective, the Justice Ministry’s statement mentioned.
Under police questioning, it became clear that Itzuv Bima did not obtain all of the required permits.
Another part of the investigation focused on whether officials in the Public Diplomacy Ministry might have had a hand in the accident, by allowing Itzuv Bima to move forward without the permits.
In response to allegations regarding those ministry officials, the Justice Ministry in April said that a decision has not been reached regarding their culpability for the incident.
The current announcement made no reference to those allegations, but subsequently it was clarified with a Justice Ministry spokeswoman that one case against Alex Sela, a former ministry employee, had been closed, and two remaining cases were still undecided.
Betzaleli’s mother, Sigalit, responded to the April announcement with mixed emotions.
The decision to indict had taken too long and the ministry officials also needed to be indicted, she said. Sigalit Betzaleli added that neither she nor her daughter’s soul could rest until all those responsible had been brought to justice.Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this story.
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