Judges in Jerusalem have extended the detention of four people arrested on suspicion of involvement in the collapse of a lighting rig at Mount Herzl in Israel, which killed a woman soldier and injured seven others. IDF 2nd Lt. Hila Bezaleli, was killed during rehearsals for the Independence Day ceremony at the national cemetery site. Initially three suspects were held: Oren Warshavsky, who was said to have been the engineer for the rig; Itzik Zucker, the site’s safety manager; and Elad Lavi, the vice president of Itzuv Bama, the firm that had been the successful bidder to produce the Independence Day event. A fourth suspect, Alex Sela, the producer of the Independence Day ceremony, was also arrested and the request for his continued detention was also based on concern that he could interfere with the investigation. Police told the court that a number of people remained to be questioned over the fatal accident, including some who are Sela’s subordinates. Sela’s firm, Sela Productions, has been involved in a number of major events in recent years, including events related to the Jerusalem Marathon, and has done considerable work with the Jerusalem municipality.
Eye witnesses say they saw the rig – a large bridge-like structure, between 15 and 20 meters in height that crosses the entire area where rehearsals for the ceremony were taking place – shaking, and then falling. “Strong” winds were reported by witnesses who said they saw the rig swaying. Police said they had substantial suspicion of negligence with respect to the planning, construction and supervision of the lighting rig that collapsed. Police superintendent Eli Cohen also said the account of events provided to police by the suspects were at variance with one another. “The engineer [Warshavsky] says he never received the work,” Cohen recounted. “The safety adviser [Zucker] contends there was an engineer who was responsible, and the employees of [Itzuv] Bama contend that, from the moment they finished constructing the structure and transferred it to the producer [Sela], the responsibility rests with the organisers of the ceremony. Police investigators said that at least one of the suspects involved in the safety inspection of the stage equipment would likely face charges of causing death through negligence, rather than the lighter wrongful death charges.
Itzuv Bama, which was awarded a contract by the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry to produce the Independence Day ceremony and is considered a leading player in its field and has been involved in organizing major events in Israel and abroad, from official ceremonies to rock concerts.
In The United Kingdom, the organiser of a fireworks display at a rugby club near the M5 has been charged with manslaughter following a pile up on the motorway which killed seven people. Geoffrey Counsell, 50, from Somerset, had provided a fireworks display at Taunton Rugby Club in a field close to the M5 motorway on 4 November 2011 when 34 vehicles crashed into each other. Seven people were killed and 51 were injured in the pile up. Rescue workers at the time described it as the worst British motorway accident in memory and witnesses described poor visibility on the motorway where the crash happened. In a joint statement, Avon and Somerset Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, said last night: “Today the Crown Prosecution Service has authorised Avon and Somerset Police to charge Geoffrey Counsell with seven counts of manslaughter following the deaths of Anthony and Pamela Adams, Maggie and Michael Barton, Malcolm Beacham, Terry Brice and Kye Thomas in a collision on the M5 in November 2011” adding “Having considered the evidence … the CPS decided there was sufficient evidence to charge Geoffrey Counsell, the provider of the fireworks display at Taunton Rugby Club on the night of the collision, with manslaughter” and “It was clear from the investigation carried out by Avon and Somerset police that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute for driver error and therefore no action will be taken against any motorists” and finally “The CPS also considered the culpability of Taunton Rugby Club and reached the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.”