Four placed under house arrest as police probe deadly crane accident

3 of 4 workers killed in Yavne incident named; one was the manager of the company operating the crane, another loaded a photo to Instagram from the top minutes before collapse

The scene where a crane collapsed at a construction site in Yavneh, killing four people and injuring two, May 19, 2019. (Flash90)
The scene where a crane collapsed at a construction site in Yavneh, killing four people and injuring two, May 19, 2019. (Flash90)

Four people were placed under house arrest Sunday as police investigated the collapse of a crane that killed four people at a construction site in the central city of Yavne.

Four workers were killed when part of the crane broke apart during an attempt to disassemble it. Three of the fatalities were named by authorities Monday as Gil Hazazi, 51, Ben Dakla, 22, and Yonatan Sabag, 33, who was reportedly the manager of the crane-operating company. The name of the fourth victim has not yet been released for publication.

Two other people were injured in the incident.

A total of 17 people were detained over the incident, 11 of whom were questioned as possible criminal suspects. The group included various officials involved with the building site and firm operating the crane.

Police ordered four of those detained to be put under house arrest for five days, and released the other 13 without restrictions.

Police said that they were investigating the accident and experts were examining the scene of the collapse, where the crane has been taken down for closer inspection. The Labor and Welfare Ministry was also involved in the probe.

The scene where a crane collapsed at a construction site in Yavne, killing four people and injuring one more, May 19, 2019. (Flash90)

The incident brought renewed attention to the issue of worker safety, with politicians, activists and others issuing urgent calls for reforms in the industry and better safety standards and enforcement.

A total of 20 people have been killed at construction sites in 2019 alone, and another 38 were killed in 2018, leading to a government commitment to up construction safety.

While most of those killed and maimed on the job have been foreign workers, the four killed Sunday in Yavne were all Israeli.

Dakla, who was raised in the central town of Pardes Hannah, had loaded an image to his Instagram account showing the view from the top of the crane shortly before it collapsed. In a comment accompanying the photo he wrote “Building Yavne.”

His father Nissim Dakla spoke to media and criticized the way the unfolding drama was reported as rescuers worked to reach his son, who was seen dangling from the damaged crane and described as trapped “between heaven and earth.”

“I have criticism of the fuss there was yesterday with the rescue services who talked about a someone hanging from the crane,” he said. “Ben was careful about his safety, he was attached with rappelling harnesses that were supposed to save him. He wasn’t hanging between heaven and earth, that simply isn’t true, they were just trying to make headlines. The harnesses were supposed to prevent that disaster from happening.”

When rescuers eventually reached Dakla they discovered he had died of his injuries.

Ben Dakla who was killed in a crane accident in Yavne, May 19, 2019. (Courtesy)

Friends told media that Dakla grew up under difficult circumstances, and that his parents had separated. Despite various challenges he pushed hard to join a combat unit in the army and eventually served on a naval patrol boat. He left the army just over a year ago with an exemplary record.

“It is very painful, he was just beginning life,” said a friend of Dakla’s identified only as Yam told the Walla website. “He was a very optimistic person, with many plans. He wanted to take the world by the horns.”

Yam said that Dakla took the job working in cranes to pay for planned travel and for studies.

Sabag marked his 33rd birthday on Sunday. The day before was spent celebrating with his family. Hebrew media reports said that one of his brothers, who also works in the family crane business, Sabag Manofim, was expected to give testimony to police about the incident.

Yoni Sabag who was killed in a crane accident in Yavneh, May 19, 2019. (Courtesy)

The Sabag family said in a statement that “Yonatan was a responsible and dedicated guy, who loved his work with cranes. He always took care of the safety of his surroundings at work and also his personal safety. Yonatan had a big heart and was always concerned to help those around him and always did that with a smile and love.

“Last Saturday he celebrated his 33rd birthday together with all of his family, without knowing that in effect that was his farewell party,” the statement said.

Hazazi, from Hadera, is survived by his wife and three daughters.

A neighbor told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily that Hazazi, who formerly owned a bicycle shop, was part of the team which would assemble and dismantle the crane.

“He was always taking care of the family,” Hazazi’s brother-in-law told the newspaper. “We are waiting for answers, trying to understand how something like this could even happen. It is a terrible tragedy.”

Gil Hazazi who was killed in a crane collapse at a construction site in Yavneh, May 19, 2019. (Courtesy)

The fourth victim was from the south of the country and is survived by his wife.

All four were apparently on the crane when a counterjib with concrete ballast blocks collapsed, taking three of them down with it, according to eyewitness speaking to the Walla news site. The three were declared dead at the scene.

The fourth victim, apparently Dakla, was left dangling for about an hour before rescuers managed to reach him and bring him down, at which point medical personnel declared him dead.

A crane which collapsed at a construction site in Yavne, killing four people and injuring two more, May 19, 2019. (Flash90)

Two other workers were lightly injured. Another was initially declared missing, but rescue services later located him and said he was unhurt.

A month ago a truck driver, Itzhik Cohen, 31, was killed at the same construction site and on Thursday, two construction workers were killed in separate incidents in the cities of Petah Tikva and Bnei Brak.

Welfare Minister Haim Katz speaks during a Finance Committee meeting in the Knesset on March 5, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Responding to Sunday’s incident, Labor and Welfare Minister Haim Katz appeared to deflect criticism and shift blame to the workers.

“I do not think the accidents are due to contractors’ negligence,” he said. “Some workers do not secure themselves despite the heights [they are working at].”

Last year, a general strike was averted at the last moment after the Histadrut labor federation reached a deal with the government to improve safety conditions for construction workers. The focus of the planned strike had been the lack of safety regulations at building sites, following the deaths of several dozen workers.

The new measures adopted last year included making the European standard for scaffolding obligatory, regulating cranes, and increasing the number of inspectors.

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