Criminal probe of two Carmel fire suspects closed

Usafia youths suspected of deliberately starting blaze that killed 44 will not face trial; State Attorney's office cites lack of evidence.

Carmel Fire 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Carmel Fire 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
The State Attorney’s Office announced on Thursday that it has ordered the criminal investigation into the Carmel fire to be closed due to lack of sufficient evidence to bring the two suspects to trial.
Police had suspected that two youths aged 13 and 14 from the Druse Usfiya village near Haifa had deliberately caused the blaze last December, in which 44 people died.
RELATED:Comptroller slams ministers for Carmel fire ‘failures’Prison officers killed in Carmel fire recognized
Among the victims were 37 prison service cadets and their commanding officers, who died when their bus was engulfed by flames. The fire also caused widespread damage to land and property, totaling millions of shekels. An estimated 1.5 million trees were destroyed in the fire.
A spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office said in a statement late Thursday afternoon that the decision had been made after a thorough investigation, which had reviewed all the evidence police had gathered since the investigation was opened.
The State Attorney’s Office concluded that it was not possible to determine with sufficient certainty the precise course of events that caused the deadly blaze.
“Severe legal and evidential problems,” including the fact that the victims died several hours after the fire started and at a large distance from the original source of the blaze, also led to the decision to close the file, the statement said.
The Haifa District Attorney’s Office notified the victims’ families on Thursday morning that the case had been closed.
Navah Boker, the widow of Lior Boker, a police commander killed in the fire, criticized the decision as “saddening and outrageous.”
Boker was quoted by Army Radio as saying that the decision damages “the ability to deter young people from negligent behavior involving fire.”
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.