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5 Israelis indicted for role in Maccabiah bridge tragedy

JERUSALEM, Dec. 22 (JTA) — Five Israelis have been charged with negligent homicide in connection with a fatal bridge collapse at July’s Maccabiah Games. The indictments came after the relatives of the Australian athletes who either died or were injured in the tragedy spent months demanding that those responsible be brought to justice. The five who were indicted Monday in a Tel Aviv court were Baruch Karagula and Yehoshua Ben-Ezra, the contractors; Micha Bar- Ilan, the bridge’s engineer; Adam Mishori, the head of Irgunit, the firm that subcontracted to Baruch and Karagula; and Yoram Eyal, the head of the organizing committee for the international games. If convicted, each could face up to three years in jail. After learning of the indictment Sunday, Eyal stepped down from his position with the organizing committee. Itamar Herman, who chaired the organizing committee for the opening ceremonies, also resigned. Two Australian athletes were immediately killed July 14 and hundreds of other participants at the Games injured when a pedestrian bridge collapsed, plunging scores of people into the Yarkon River. Two more Australians died weeks later as a result of complications that medical officials linked to contaminants in the river. One Australian athlete injured in the incident, tennis player Sasha Elterman, 15, has been hospitalized with a brain abscess that doctors say may have been caused by the polluted water. Officials from Maccabi Australia have repeatedly complained about Israel’s handling of the inquiry into the disaster and have demanded the speedy payment of compensation to the victims’ families. At a news conference in Tel Aviv on Monday, Tom Goldman, chairman of Maccabi Australia, said his organization was considering pulling out of the Maccabi World Union because it had not acknowledged its responsibility for the collapse. Maccabi World Union leaders in Israel said they were setting up a commission to probe the organization’s role in the collapse.