The two safety engineers detained for questioning on their role in the Meron disaster placed the blame for the tragic incident squarely on the shoulders of the police, Yisrael Hayom reported.
During their interrogation, the engineers asserted that they faithfully and professionally fulfilled their jobs but their recommendations were not implemented by the police. “The disaster happened only because the police chose to ignore the professionals despite the fact that the police themselves required the organizers to hire safety professionals.”
The engineers said that they transferred a report of the safety pitfalls at the site to the police as early as April 25. According to documents that were revealed in the Yisrael Hayom report for the first time, the safety engineers demanded as early as January that all the hadlakos at Meron be carried out at the same time in order to prevent large amounts of people from moving from place to place. [In other words, if the Toldos Aharon hadkaka had taken place at the same time as all the other hadlakos, it wouldn’t have been so terribly crowded.] Unfortunately, this recommendation was not heeded.
“We warned about crowding not because of COVID but because of Shabbat,” the engineers said. “We estimated that masses of people would arrive all at once and that’s what happened.” [Since Lag B’Omer was on Erev Shabbos, everyone needed to get to Meron early in order to return home before Shabbos.]
Furthermore, following a safety assessment of Meron last month, the safety engineer sent a letter on April 26 to the police officer at the Northern Police District responsible for licensing and security, stating that a balcony erected on the site “narrowed the entrance of the emergency exit leading to the Toldos Aharon [stairs]. In an emergency, this obstacle poses a danger and can lead to a bottleneck.”
The safety engineer further warned in the letter that “due to the expected large crowds, all emergency exits must be accessible.”
The safety engineers’ lawyers issued a statement saying: “It is very unfortunate that instead of putting their own house in order, the police are seeking scapegoats.”
“Our clients recommended in writing to various parties to carry out actions to reduce the safety risks at the site. The written recommendations were submitted months before the event. Ultimately it seems that the recommendations were rejected due to pressure from various parties of interest, who were vocal then and are silent today. The conduct of our clients was never lacking. They are experienced professionals who did their work in the best way possible but whose recommendations were not heeded.”
Following their interrogation, the engineers were released to house arrest for five days, according to a statement by the police.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)