Remand of suspects in Netanya blast extended by 5 days

Gas explosions kill 3 teenager girls, 1 man ; alleged thief, gas technician suspected of manslaughter, death by negligence.

By JPOST.COM
June 17, 2011 14:00
4 minute read.

Netanya Blast 465 7. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court on Friday extended the remand by five days of two people suspected to be involved in the Netanya gas explosion Thursday overnight.

The judge decided that one of the men, who allegedly stole metal cables from the building and who is suspected of manslaughter and theft, poses a real danger.

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Regarding the gas technician, who was called to the scene to repair the cable damage and who is also suspected of manslaughter and causing death by negligence, the judge determined that his remand will be extended over concern of obstruction of justice.

Before the explosion on Thursday, one of the suspects was seen fiddling with cables, and was initially arrested, then released before being arrested again.

The other suspect, the gas technician, was called to the scene to repair the cables damaged by the first suspect. The technician later left the scene, and was arrested after the gas explosion.

Also Friday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu contacted Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg Ikar offering his condolences on the tragic incident.



He also pledged to appoint the Director-General of the Prime Minister's Office Eyal Gabai to help the coastal city return to routine after the event.

The suspected gas explosion rocked a four-story building in Netanya overnight Thursday, leaving four people dead and at least 90 others injured, most of them slightly hurt. The cause of the explosion was initially unknown, but Police officially announced that the explosion was caused by a gas tank or a number of tanks.

Three teenage girls and one man were among the casualties of Thursday's blast.

Rivka Masihid, 17, Rivka Dorai, 18, and Stacy Brock, 17, all residents of the city, were killed after returning from the local Habbad House. The girls reportedly had gone to pick up Shabbat candles in order to hand them out to local residents.

Mohammed Abu Attar, 28, was also killed in Thursday night's blast, but likely from gas tank explosions on Herzl street on not from inside the building. Channel 10 news said that Attar was to be married in the coming months.

Attar was a resident of Kafr Karaa, a village located in the North's Wadi Araa.


"This is not a terror attack," a Netanya police spokesman said. A resident close to the scene told Israel Radio he smelled a strong smell of gas.

The announcement of the remand hearing comes after earlier reports saying Police arrested a Netanya resident who they suspect may have cut a gas line causing a leak that led to the explosion. The man was detained by Police earlier on Thursday, and later released, after allegedly trying to steal gas pipes which are made of metal that can later be sold, according to the report. An additional report said the suspect may have cut the gas line intentionally as part of a feud between competing owners of businesses in the building. Police were also expected to investigate claims that Amisragas inspectors, who said the gas lines were properly functioning, were guilty of negligence, Israel Radio reported.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharnovitch who arrived on the scene, told Israel Radio, "Our working assumption is that this was caused by a gas tank, although nothing is certain." He added, "There is a strong smell of gas. What's important now is to evacuate all the injured from the building. Searches are still underway...there are probably people on the upper floors that were not hurt but are trapped. It may take hours to get them out. The rescue services will go room by room to search for trapped people."

The building houses some 150 families on its upper floors while the ground floor is made up of various businesses. Several of the businesses are owned by the Abutbul family, an alleged organized crime syndicate in Netanya, Israel Radio reported.

MDA Paramedics said that three women and one man were killed in the blast. Two of the women were in their forties, one woman was in her twenties and the man was in his fifties.

MDA paramedics attended to the wounded at the building, located in Netanya's Atzmaut Square. Firefighters were also disconnecting the building from gas pipes and the electricity grid.

The injured were evacuated to the Laniado Medical Center in Netanya, Hillel Yaffe Hospital in Hadera and Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba by MDA paramedics. Three of the wounded were listed as moderately injured, and the rest were slightly hurt. All but ten of the injured were treated and released by Friday morning.

All 150 of the apartments in the building were evacuated and remained off limits to residents. Rescue teams continued to search the debris surrounding the building for more injured people. Three people were still missing as of Friday morning.

A number of buildings around Atzmaut Square sustained heavy damage as a result of the blast. Police said there was "widescale destruction" in the blast area. A number of passers-by were lightly injured.

Police sealed off Atzmaut Square. Drivers were asked to keep away from the area.


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