Israel Planned to Close Case of Construction Worker's Death Without Investigation

After failing to question the employer, state prosecutors only reopened the case following pressure from the deceased's widow to conduct a proper investigation

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
Yegodayev's widow Margarita with his photo, 2018.
Yegodayev's widow Margarita with his photo, 2018.Credit: Moti Milrod
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

A year and a half after the death of a construction worker, state prosecutors were planning to close his file without questioning his employer. Only after the intervention of his widow’s lawyer was it decided to reopen the case.

In May 2018, David Yegodayev was killed in a work accident on a construction site in Tel Aviv. He was working on a mobile machine suspended between two balconies and was crushed by the machine and pronounced dead at the scene.

He left behind a wife and three children, who are now in financial straits. Police launched an investigation, and several months ago transferred their findings to state prosecutors. The latter told the family two weeks ago that they had decided to close the case without filing any charges. It’s still not clear which company employed Yegodayev and whether it was responsible for his death.

>> Read more: Why Israel isn't doing more to prevent construction workers' deaths | Analysis

According to a report prepared by the Labor and Social Service Ministry’s supervisor, Yegodayev was employed by a company called Grossman Project Management, but state prosecutors did not question or talk to any person in that company. In response to questions by Haaretz, the company says it never employed Yegodayev. Despite this denial, sources in Electra, the company that carries out the work commissioned by Grossman Projects, say that he was. Police questioned officials at Electra, but they maintained they were not responsible since he was not one of their employees, but worked for a subcontractor.

Prosecutors decided not to charge Electra with responsibility for the accident. Only last week, after the widow’s lawyer, Anat Ginzburg, complained about the closing of the file without questioning Yegodayev’s direct employers, as is customary in work accidents, it was decided to reopen the case. “After considering the issue more thoroughly, we’ve decided to accept your request and send the file for further investigation,” prosecutors wrote to Ginzburg.

Yagodayev's widow with his two sons, Eliezer (right) and Sharon, 2018.Credit: Moti Milrod

Margarita, Yegodayev’s widow, is having a hard time providing for her children since her husband’s death, since he was the main breadwinner in the family. She says she felt abandoned by the state when she learned that the case had been closed without anyone knowing who employed her husband and who was responsible for his death.

“I was shocked to hear that they decided to close the file without questioning my husband’s employer,” she told Haaretz. “How can it be that he was killed a year and a half ago and the police didn’t investigate? I demand a proper investigation and I won’t give up.” Her attorney added that she and the family were summoned to the State Prosecutor’s Office, where they were told that the file was being closed. “It’s unbelievable that they do this without questioning the employer. I demanded that they complete the investigation. There’s a limit to the incompetence shown when it comes to the death of construction workers.”

The State Prosecutor’s Office told Haaretz, “The examination of the material gathered in this case showed that safety aspects were under the responsibility of the contracting company. Officials there were questioned in depth and no reason was found to prosecute them. There was no suspicion of negligence by the deceased’s employer. After meeting the family’s lawyer, it was decided for the sake of caution to collect testimony from the deceased’s employer before making a final decision.”

Ginzburg wondered how there was no suspicion of negligence on the part of the employer when no investigation was conducted. “In a case like this the employer must be questioned, and the fact that he wasn’t was a grave error,” he said.

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