As the news of the disaster at Meron first broke out, there were many differing accounts of how it happened, including the collapse of bleachers. However, it quickly became clear that those reports were mistaken.
Instead, the incident occurred as thousands of people made their way down a narrow downward walkway by the Toldos Aharon complex toward the exit of the site. The police, apparently unaware of how many people were in the walkway, blocked the exit for a few minutes for some reason, creating a terrible bottleneck. Meanwhile, people inside were crushed together and toppled on top of each other. The metal floor was also reportedly wet for some reason and some people on the walkway fell and there was a chain reaction, with people on top of the stairs toppling on those below.
“The blockage led to people being compressed,” the witness said. “More and more people who wanted to leave the crowded [Toldos Aharon] plaza entered the passageway, that according to witnesses was also wet.”
“And that’s how the disaster occurred. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of people on the way down, with no exit, with no possibility of moving backward.”
“We were walking and suddenly movement stopped,” one survivor told Channel 12 News. “I saw police blocking the entrance and I yelled: ‘People are dying here!’ Children were fainting in their parents’ arms.”
Another survivor was trapped under people on the walkway for ten minutes before the area was cleared and he was rescued by police.
Another witness to the scene said that contrary to the initial reports, no bleachers collapsed or anything else for that matter. “Nothing collapsed,” he said. “Over the ohel of the Hachnasas Orchim and next to the building of the Rashbi, there’s a passageway to the stairs. There was a bottleneck of people in this passageway. People fell one on top of the other. I can’t even describe to you what it looked like.”
“People were lying on top of each other in piles,” another witness said. “It’s unfathomable what happened here.”
A statement from the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department (PIID) on Friday said that an investigation into possible police negligence in the disaster will be opened immediately. Police investigators have already been at the site to gather evidence and all videos of the disaster are being reviewed.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)