Condition of champion rower improves

Friends wonder why all but one bystander failed to act.

The condition of 20-year-old academic rowing champion Jasmine Finegold, who was seriously injured when her boat flipped in the Yarkon River in north Tel Aviv on Monday, has stabilized and she is no longer in danger of dying, doctors at Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov) in Tel Aviv said on Tuesday. Finegold, who remains unconscious and in intensive care, has been visited by several of her friends at the Yarkon Rowing Club, and her rowing coach, Danny Rutenberg, has remained at her bedside together with Jasmine's mother, Elizabeth. Finegold is the daughter of Abie Natan, the peace activist and founder of the Voice of Peace offshore radio station, which broadcast to the region from a boat in the Mediterranean from 1973 to 1993. Natan, who died last year, refused at first to recognize Finegold as his daughter, until Elizabeth, who had been previously been Natan's secretary aboard the Voice of Peace, launched legal action to force him to recognize her as his daughter in 1989. As doctors continue to work to bring about further improvement in Finegold's condition, her friends at the Yarkon Rowing Club are asking themselves how the near-tragic accident took place. "We don't know why this accident happened," Yarkon Rowing Club member and friend of Finegold, Tal Shalif, told The Jerusalem Post. Shalif said the kind of boat Finegold was in had a pair of shoes attached to the vessel. Academic rowers remove their own shoes and place their feet in the boat's shoes before setting off, he said. A single velcro strap stretched loosely across both shoes secures the rower's feet to the boat, Shalif added. "The strap is not tight. There shouldn't be any problems for rowers to extricate themselves," he said. "If the rower has flipped over and begins struggling, a pull of the feet should release the shoes." Yarkon police have launched an investigation into the accident. Rowing Club members are also asking, however, why a number of bystanders failed to dive in to rescue Finegold after her boat flipped. Only the intervention of 62-year-old jogger Avi Toivin, who arrived on the scene and dived into the water of the Yarkon - a river many consider to be highly polluted and toxic - saved Finegold's life, dragging her and the boat to shore. "I don't know why people didn't dive in sooner. It could be a lack of initiative. What makes me angry is the thought that people didn't help because they were scared of pollution," Shalif said. "These fears are based on ignorance. The Maccabia disaster [in which a bridge carrying Jewish athletes collapsed in 1997, leading to the deaths of four Australian competitors - two of them from exposure to toxic water] happened years ago.Today, there are birds and fish in the river. The water is not as polluted as people think," he said. "I'm also angry at the authorities who allow people to remain ignorant," he added. "If people wouldn't be so scared, maybe they would have jumped in."