Academy head, counselor to be charged with manslaughter in flood deaths
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Academy head, counselor to be charged with manslaughter in flood deaths

10 students were killed during ill-planned hike last April; police had recommended Bnei Zion director Yuval Kahan face lesser charges

A composite photo of the 10 victims of a flash flood in southern Israel on April 27, 2018. Top row, left to right: Romi Cohen, Ilan Bar Shalom, Shani Shamir, Adi Raanan, Agam Levy. Bottom row, left to right: Yael Sadan, Maayan Barhum, Tzur Alfi, Gali Balali, Ella Or. (Courtesy/Facebook)
A composite photo of the 10 victims of a flash flood in southern Israel on April 27, 2018. Top row, left to right: Romi Cohen, Ilan Bar Shalom, Shani Shamir, Adi Raanan, Agam Levy. Bottom row, left to right: Yael Sadan, Maayan Barhum, Tzur Alfi, Gali Balali, Ella Or. (Courtesy/Facebook)

Prosecutors were expected on Wednesday to charge the former head of the Bnei Zion pre-military academy and a former counselor at the institution over their involvement in a desert hike last year in which 10 teenagers were swept to their deaths by a flash flood.

Academy director Yuval Kahan will be charged with manslaughter, despite a police recommendation last year that he face the lesser offense of negligent homicide. Counselor Aviv Bardichev will also be indicted for manslaughter. The two indictments will be filed pending a hearing.

Police reportedly suggested the lesser charge for Kahan because he received a less specific weather warning than Bardichev ahead of the trip.

Prosecutors have decided to follow a police recommendation to not charge another counselor at the academy, Noam Dor, who warned Bardichev ahead of time of flash floods.

Yuval Kahan. (Courtesy: Bnei Zion pre-military academy)

Dor had advised against taking the students on a hike to the Dead Sea area amid heavy rains. Her father, a search and rescue official, warned her not to “take the chance,” given the poor weather. The staffer said she passed her father’s warnings on to school officials, but they went unheeded.

According to Hebrew media reports, Bardichev changed the route of the trip from the Tze’elim stream to the Tzafit stream despite being warned by a weather forecasting company not to travel in the area due to flooding. Bardichev had even received an email advising against hiking there.

Kahan was also said to have known about the route change but chose to trust Bardichev’s judgment. Kahan has since resigned his position at the academy, saying in a statement communicated by his lawyers that he was “in agony and his heart is torn” over the tragedy.

Family and friends mourn during the funeral of Maayan Barhom at the Har Hamenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem, Friday, April 27, 2018. Maayan was killed yesterday along with 9 other teens when they were swept in a flooding at the Tzafit Stream during a class trip near the Dead Sea. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In a WhatsApp message sent to participants ahead of the trip, organizers had assured participants that there was nothing to worry about.

Nine girls and one boy were killed when the group was hit by flash floods in the Tzafit riverbed in the southern Dead Sea area.

The 10 fatalities were Shani Shamir from the central city of Shoham; Ella Or from Ma’ale Adumim; Maayan Barhum and Yael Sadan from Jerusalem; Tzur Alfi, the only male who was killed, from the central town of Mazkeret Batya; Agam Levy from the central Israeli town of Herut; Romi Cohen of Maor, near Hadera; Gali Balali from the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim; Adi Raanan of the northern Israel moshav of Mikhmoret; and Ilan Bar Shalom of Rishon Lezion.

Military helicopters search for missing teens swept away in the flooding of the Tzafit River, a riverbed near the Dead Sea in southern Israel, on April 26, 2018. (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90)

The 10 were part of a group of 25 high school students on the hike organized by the academy, and were set to attend its program in the coming year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced earlier this month that the government will establish a commission of inquiry into the disaster.

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