Almost half a year after the collapse of the Versailles wedding hall in Jerusalem, the state commission formed to investigate the tragedy will meet for the first time tomorrow, to review building and public facility safety standards. Confirmation of the commission's first meeting was provided to Ha'aretz by its chairman, Jerusalem District Court Judge Vardi Zeiler.
Meanwhile, police sources indicate that progress in the criminal investigation of the May 24 Versailles hall accident, in which 23 persons were killed, awaits the completion of an engineering inquiry conducted by the Israel Institute of Construction Research, at the Technion.
Top police officials expect that the Institute will relay its findings this month. They say that while ample evidence attests to the direct responsibility borne by engineers, contractors and the wedding hall owners, it will be difficult to substantiate allegations of indirect responsibility against Jerusalem Municipality officials.
Police investigation of the Versailles tragedy has proceeded on two levels. Police investigators have probed a number of engineering and construction issues, and reviewed issues related to parties directly connected to the facility, including its owners. Supplemented by the soon-to-be-released conclusions of the Technion's Construction Research institute, the police are expected to recommend that most suspects in this part of the investigation face negligence charges.
In addition, police have looked into whether Jerusalem Municipality officials can be charged with indirect responsibility for the wedding hall collapse, in light of past construction-related corruption scandals in the city. This second investigatory level, however, may not produce recommendations for indictments. "Even if it turns out that a particular official took bribes, it is very hard to prove a causal relation [to the Versailles collapse]," said one top police official.
Building safety commission chairman Vardi Zeiler told Ha'aretz yesterday that administrative and technical problems, including delays in obtaining budget approval and finding an appropriate venue, stopped his panel from beginning its work until now. The Knesset Finance Committee recently authorized a budget to support the commission's work through the end of the year, he said. The panel will meet at Beit Shalom, on Jerusalem's Ahad Ha'am Street.
Zeiler said that announcements were published at the end of last week, calling on citizens to produce materials related to safety standards of buildings around the country. The commission is currently sending appeals to a number of research institutes and local councils, asking for studies and data germane to its inquiry regarding building safety.
Zeiler emphasizes that while the Versailles catastrophe was the "trigger" prompting the formation of his panel, investigation of the wedding hall incident is not on its agenda. Yet it is expected that the wedding hall collapse will be brought up when the commission probes past building disasters.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now