Court upholds prison terms in Versailles hall disaster

Developer of construction method responsible for deaths of 23 people to serve four years in jail, 3 engineers given 6-22 month terms.

Versailles hall 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Versailles hall 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the appeal of the state and the accused in the case of the deadly collapse of Jerusalem's Versailles banquet hall in 2001, upholding their prison sentences. In May 2007, Eli Ron, the developer of the Pal-Kal construction method, responsible for the disaster, was sentenced to four years in prison by the Jerusalem District Court. Two engineers who designed the building, Dan Shefer, Shimon Kaufman and Uri Pesach, were each sentenced to 22 months in jail, while a third, Uri Pesach received a six-month prison term. They were all convicted of the negligent deaths of the 23 people who were killed in the collapse, the worst civilian disaster in Israel's history, as well as negligent assault and injuring 356 people. The two co-owners of the banquet hall were sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in November 2005 after being convicted on similar charges. Pal-Kal is a cheap, lightweight construction method that uses metal plates and thin layers of cement. It was popular in the 1980s, but was banned by the Israel Standards Institute in 1996. In the 2007 hearing, the court ruled that the Pal-Kal system was substandard and dangerous, and that Ron was negligent in distributing and selling it. The court also found that Ron had continued using the method despite warnings of intrinsic flaws. Police and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology engineers found that a combination of shoddy construction, reckless renovation, building violations, and criminal negligence had led to the collapse. Etgar Lefkovits contributed to this report