SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — More than 400 people attended a memorial service for the four Australians killed in the 1997 Maccabiah bridge disaster.
Friday’s ceremony was held at the official memorial in Ramat Gan on the banks of the Yarkon River, where a makeshift bridge collapsed as the Australian team was crossing into the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games 12 years ago.
Greg Small, Yetty Bennett, Elizabeth Sawicki and Warren Zines died in the disaster. Some 70 others were injured. The Games were canceled for one day of mourning.
In an emotional speech, Greg Small’s son, Josh, who will compete at the 18th Games, which open Monday, said that “I am here, in this place, at this time. I will finish off what you started all those years ago. And I will do my best to win your pride and maybe a medal — further evidence that not even a tragedy of monster proportions can break the bond that will forever exist between us."
Josh was 7 at the time of his father’s death and will compete in tenpin bowling — the same sport as his late father. His mother, Suzanne, who was among those injured in 1997, and sister Rebecca also attended the memorial service.
Among the other speakers were Maccabi Australia president Harry Procel; head of delegation Tom Goldman; Australian Ambassador James Larsen; and Maccabi World Union chair Igal Carmi.
Leading the Australian team into the opening ceremony is Roy Vandersluis, a 62-year-old golfer who has competed at every Maccabiah since 1977. Maccabi World Union officials cannot name any other athlete since the so-called Jewish Olympics began in 1932 to have competed in nine consecutive Games.