Ten construction workers for Electra Construction were killed at building sites over a period of almost four years, from May 2015 through to October 2018, but not a single indictment has been filed against anyone involved in the deaths. Seven cases were opened by the State Prosecutor’s Office as a result of police investigations into the deaths, but six have been closed and no decision has been reached on the seventh.
Another police investigation, begun in 2017, was not even passed on to prosecutors. In addition, the Registrar of Contractors in the Construction and Housing Ministry conducted a hearing for the company in 2018 – but then chose not to take any disciplinary action against Electra.
Last week, Li Hushi, 53, a foreign construction worker, was killed at a construction site of the company in Givat Shmuel, near Tel Aviv. Since the incident, police have not arrested anyone, and only took testimony from witnesses who were at the site when the incident occurred.
One of the workers killed was Mohammed Ahed Ziadat, 18, from the town of Muqeible on Mount Gilboa. The accident occurred in July 2018 at the construction site of a power plant on Mount Gilboa, when 11 construction workers were on scaffolding 15 meters above the ground, inside a 70-meter-deep shaft. A concrete boiler raised by mobile crane came loose and hit the workers, electrocuting some. Aside from the death of Ziadat, four workers were lightly to moderately injured. Last summer, additional investigations were carried out in the case but since then no decision has been made.
Ahed Ziadat, Mohammed’s father, has been trying to understand for a long time where the investigation into his son’s death stands. “There is a problem here. A person was killed and no one’s responsible? They even checked into it? When you delay and delay, after so much time, how can the case not be closed? Now I hear there was another accident at a site of Electra Construction. What punishment did the company receive? It hurt me enormously. I had a young son with a future, and in the end he’s no more. His bed is empty.”
Ziadat was not the only worker killed at that construction site. In May 2015, Igor Dubos from Moldova was killed after he was buried under a mound of dirt after a tunnel collapsed. In May 2016, Sliman Ali Fayad, 46, was killed after being buried in a collapsed tunnel. In both cases, the investigation was closed without charges.
Dong Gwan Ching, 40, a Chinese citizen, died in a construction accident at an Electra site in Rosh Ha’ayin in 2017 after he fell from the sixth floor. Prosecutors have never examined the case because they have not received the evidence. Police said the case is still under investigation, over four years after the accident. Two other construction workers were killed at the site in August 2018, after falling off scaffolding that came loose on the 15th floor. The case was closed because of “severe lack of evidence,” said a law enforcement official.
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Two construction workers died in an accident in 2015 at an Electra project site in Tel Aviv after they fell from the 28th floor. The families of one of the victims filed a complaint to the judicial ombudsman, retired Judge David Rozen, over the delays in the case, and the complaint was found to be justified. The case was then sent back to the police for further investigation, and while prosecutors considered filing indictments, in the end the case was closed without any action after the suspects were granted a hearing to tell their side of the story.
Anton Marchenko, 29, of Holon was killed in October 2018 after falling into a garbage shaft at a construction site in Bat Yam. This case was also closed without any charges. Channel 13 News reported that Electra paid millions of shekels in compensation to his family, but never admitted to any responsibility for the accident.
In May 2018, David Yagodayev, 59, from Rishon Letzion was killed at a construction site in Tel Aviv. Yagodayev was working on a mobile platform in the space between two balconies when he got trapped between the platform and the floor of the balcony above him, and was crushed to death. The case was closed, and an appeal filed by his family was also denied.
In the letter explaining the rejection of the appeal, then Deputy State Prosecutor Nurit Litman said it was impossible to prove in court that "another person supervising the work of the deceased from the ground had the ability to warn about the danger in time or prevent it.” This justification is also found in many other cases of construction accidents that are closed by prosecutors.
“This is insane,” Eliezer Yagodayev, the deceased man’s son, told Haaretz. “They are always blaming the dead. It’s helplessness, I’m mad and frustrated. It leads me to feel there is no justice … in this country.”
Hadas Tagari, director of the advocacy organization Coalition against Construction Accidents, said: “The fact that six of the these accident investigations were closed, and the remaining two have been delayed for years by the police and prosecutor’s office – a delay that erodes the chances of concluding the proceedings in them – testifies to the failure of the police and prosecutors’ actions, which critically damage the ability to deter those in charge at construction sites from negligence in protecting the safety of workers.”
The State Prosecutor’s Office said work accident cases are extremely complicated legally and difficult to investigate, which is why they often they do not lead to indictments. The decision on every individual case is made by the prosecution after an examination of all the evidence, unrelated to the identity of the company or the suspects involved.
Police said that after the incident in which Dong Gwan Ching was killed in 2017, they opened an investigation that is still underway – and at its conclusion the case will be transferred to the State Prosecutor’s Office for examination and a decision, as usual.
Electra Construction declined to comment.