TA to probe marathon after man dies, many hurt

Twelve participants in serious condition after running in extreme heat; Huldai: Due to Obama's visit we couldn't delay races.

Runners take part in Tel Aviv marathon 370 (photo credit: Tamara Zieve)
Runners take part in Tel Aviv marathon 370
(photo credit: Tamara Zieve)
The city of Tel Aviv vowed on Friday to open an investigation following the death of a 29-year-old runner during the city’s shortened marathon earlier in the day, which took place despite unseasonably hot weather.
The statement came shortly after Maj. Michael Michaelovich, a resident of the Menucha moshav in the South, collapsed and died during the race.
Michaelovich was an officer serving in the IDF’s Oketz canine unit, where he was a trusted commander and instructor. Friends and family members on Saturday described him as an avid runner who was in good physical shape.
Only one month before his death, his wife gave birth to their first child, a baby boy.
Michaelovich was buried on Saturday night in his hometown, Beersheba.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said that the municipality would not only hold their own investigation, but would also cooperate with any inquiry launched into the decision to hold the event.
Huldai said “the city of Tel Aviv expresses its deep regret over the death of one of the runners in the city’s marathon,” adding that the city followed instructions from the Health Ministry and Sourasky Medical Center in deciding to hold only the half marathon, so the event would end by 9:30 a.m.
Huldai said that the runner who died was taking part in the half marathon, began running at 6 a.m. and was treated by medical staff at 8 a.m. At that time, the weather was only somewhat hot, according to the weather services, Huldai said.
“Having said that, it’s important to emphasize that ahead of the marathon discussions were held with professionals and the most senior medical officials and we adhered to their recommendations,” Huldai said. He asserted that the half marathon was run “under weather conditions that all assessments ruled were reasonable.”
Army Radio also quoted Huldai as saying that in light of US President Barack Obama’s scheduled visit to Israel this week, it was not possible to postpone the day’s events.
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) said Friday that the tragedy could have been averted, saying “a cross-city marathon is a beautiful sporting event, but one that shouldn’t be held no matter the conditions, and it must not be dependent on financial concerns and business interests.”
Henin called on the mayor to be “empathetic” and take responsibility for what happened.
Tel Aviv Councilman Reuven Lediansky was quick to call for an inquiry into the decision to hold the marathon, saying Friday that “the negligence of the municipality today took the life of a marathon runner, for the second time since 2011.”
“I am shocked that despite the warnings about the heat and the orders from the Health Ministry, the mayor decided to hold the marathon anyway for financial reasons,” he added.
The marathon was the subject of a large advertising campaign by the Tel Aviv Municipality, which in the lead up to the race hyped it as “a non-stop party” and a local holiday of sorts.
The municipality said in February they invested at least NIS 12 million in putting on the marathon, which Huldai called an event of great importance “not only for the city but also for Israel as a whole,” while Alon Solar, city councilman and the head of the city’s sport council, said the event has “international importance” for Tel Aviv, and will help their efforts to promote the city’s offerings.
A total of 80 runners needed medical treatment during and after the race and 34 were hospitalized with dehydration, after ignoring the Health Ministry’s warning that the searing heat and humidity would make participation a danger to health.
Magen David Adom ambulances evacuated the victims and took them to Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, while medics treated dozens of others for light or moderate heatstroke, in which the loss of body fluids affects numerous organs.
MDA spokesman Zaki Heller said five runners were in the most danger and were put under anesthesia and respirated at the hospital. In addition to Sourasky, Wolfson Medical Center in Holon and Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer also admitted patients.
Upon the ministry’s recommendation, the full 42-kilometer marathon was canceled last week.
The ministry also advised that all runners of shorter races cross the finish line no later than 8:30 a.m.
and preferably earlier, before the temperature reached 30 degrees.
But many runners – and tens of thousands of spectators – participated on Friday as the thermometers popped through the 36-degree mark.
People who fainted or lost consciousness were taken by medics to a tent at the starting point and treated until additional ambulances arrived.
Heller said that at every marathon, medics are prepared for the worst, but due to the oppressive heat, a relatively large number of runners became dehydrated, fainted or suffered from heatstroke.
Altogether some 35,000 runners took to the streets of Tel Aviv to take part in the event and around 150,000 came to cheer them on.
The rescheduled full marathon is due to be held on March 22.