J'lem: Girl dies falling into gas-filled manhole

Passerby in critical condition after inhaling poisonous emissions while trying to rescue 3-year-old.

MDA jerusalem accident 248 88 (photo credit: Ram Weiner - Atar Katzar)
MDA jerusalem accident 248 88
(photo credit: Ram Weiner - Atar Katzar)
A three-year-old girl whose family recently immigrated here from the US was killed on Wednesday after she fell into a manhole that was filled with poisonous fumes in the capital's Ramat Eshkol neighborhood. The girl died shortly after inhaling the gas. A middle-aged haredi passerby who jumped in the manhole in an attempt to rescue the girl was himself seriously injured and rendered unconscious. The accident took place around 4 p.m. when the girl, identified as Rachel Sofer, went with her babysitter to play in the neighborhood park. Rachel lost her balance and fell into the manhole, which is some 3 or 4 meters deep. After her babysitter started screaming for help, the passerby jumped in and managed to get the child out, only to get stuck himself. Minutes later, Rachel was pronounced dead at the scene by Magen David Adom medics after multiple attempts to resuscitate her failed. Her stroller lay askew next to the manhole. The would-be rescuer was rushed to Hadassah-University Hospital at Ein Kerem. Neighborhood residents said the dangerous manhole had been open for some time, and that they had repeatedly told the municipality of a disaster waiting to happen. "We called the city and warned them about it - that it was life-threatening danger - but they never came," said a woman who gave her name as Leah. "It was always 'tomorrow, we'll come.'" The Jerusalem Municipality said in a statement it had never received any complaint about the open manhole, and that it was apparently the result of vandalism. City manager Ya'ir Ma'ayan said the hole was used to store water more than four decades ago and that it was apparently opened by youths who lit a bonfire nearby and then threw garbage inside. "There were no complaints about the manhole in the last year," Ma'ayan said. Police were investigating suspicions of negligence, Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. Neighbors spoke of a wonderful family with beautiful children who often passed through the park. The family had recently celebrated the girl's birthday at a local synagogue. As police officers notified the family of Rachel's death, municipal workers firmly sealed the manhole. A second opened manhole was found several hundred meters away.