Construction Company Charged Over Crane Collapse

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The scene of the crane that collapsed in the central Israeli city of Bat Yam, February 13, 2017
The scene of the crane that collapsed in the central Israeli city of Bat Yam, February 13, 2017Credit: MDA paramedics

The construction company Mivnim and Netivim Ltd., together with two of its managers, were indicted Thursday for the collapse of a crane on a Bat Yam construction site in 2017. The crane operator and two others were injured in the accident.

The crane operator, Eli Shkolnik, was hospitalized for two years after the accident, underwent a series of operations and his leg was amputated.

The crane, which collapsed on several cars parked nearby, also injured a man and his daughter who were in one of the cars.

The company and its managers at the site, Guy and Omer Atiya, were charged with acting recklessly and negligently by failing to take the required precautions for ensuring the crane’s stability and safety, and by positioning it in a way that endangered its stability. By so doing they caused the accident and endangered the lives of the workers on the site and of passersby, it was ruled. They are liable for a maximum penalty of three years in prison.

“The defendants acted recklessly and negligently with the crane under their supervision, risked the lives of the workers on the site and of passersby, and caused the accident, injury to passersby and damage to cars,” the indictment said. "The defendants operated the crane without giving thought to the risks of its faulty positioning.” 

The prosecution said the indictment was submitted more than three years ago after the accident, due to the difficulty of proving negligence in the handling of the crane. One of the main reasons for the delay was the need to obtain an opinion from the Standards Institute about the reason for the collapse, which is the case’s main piece of evidence.

“I’m glad they were indicted, but my life was ruined,” Shkolnik said. “Since the accident I’ve been at home, I can’t work, I can hardly walk. All they wanted was for the building to be completed, they didn’t think enough about safety.”

Shkolnik's lawyer Israel Asal said he had also submitted a civil suit, demanding that those responsible for the crane pay the crane operator who lost his leg 1 million shekels in compensation, in addition to the damages fees he deserves.

Ami Kaufman, who had been injured in the accident with his daughter, told Haaretz: “This is an important day for our family and for the struggle against construction accidents.”

Kaufman said he hoped the defendants would be given the harshest penalty the law permits “to make it clear that there’s a heavy price to pay for negligence and for rounding off corners, which cause the death of dozens of people and injury to hundreds of others every year in the construction business.”

Yinon Sartal and Nir Lazar, the lawyers representing the company and its workers, said in response: “The company hired a certified engineer for programming the crane and setting it up and didn’t begin operating it before it was tested by a mechanical engineer certified by the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services, who issued the license to operate the crane and verified that it was in proper working order.

"As the indictment and Standards Institute opinion says," they continued, "the programming engineer totally erred in the way he programmed the crane, but for some reason the prosecution exonerates him from responsibility for the event. The Labor Ministry’s mechanical engineer who authorized operating the crane and said that it was in working order is also missing from the indictment.

The lawyers added that “The attempt to attribute to the company and its workers responsibility for the event after they had acted according to the law and in keeping with regulations and received all the permits, is a groundless effort that not only won’t prevent future accidents but prepares the ground for the next accidents. The charges are groundless and we have no doubt that this will be the ruling at the end of the process.”

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