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Israeli died of epileptic seizure in Sinai, lifeguards didn’t know CPR, husband says

Spouse of Orit Peled, 49, says local staff didn’t know basic lifesaving techniques and lacked medical equipment; woman suffered seizure while snorkeling in Sharm el-Sheikh

Orit Peled, 49, an Israeli who drowned while snorkeling in Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sinai Peninsula on June 17, 2022. (Courtesy)
Orit Peled, 49, an Israeli who drowned while snorkeling in Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sinai Peninsula on June 17, 2022. (Courtesy)

An Israeli woman who drowned while on vacation with her husband in the Sinai Peninsula over the weekend had an epileptic seizure while snorkeling and lifeguards did not have sufficient knowledge of CPR to save her life, her husband said Sunday.

Orit Peled, 49, died during a trip with her husband to the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, located on the southern tip of the Egyptian peninsula — a popular tourist destination for Israelis.

Her husband, Itzik, told Channel 13 news that Orit was an experienced snorkeler and scuba diver who traveled to Sinai two or three times a year.

“She would say there was no place like it in the world,” he said, adding that she was an “amazing person.”

Itzik said that his wife had epilepsy but “took medications and didn’t have seizures all the time.”

He added that she was an experienced scuba diver who had reached the highest recreational level of certification. Medical authorities advise that people with epilepsy should not scuba dive.

On Friday, the couple went to a beach where Orit wanted to snorkel. Most authorities say that while snorkeling is risky for those with epilepsy, it can be done in relative safety if accompanied by a partner.

“I was afraid, but she really wanted to do it,” he said. “She took me with her and we snorkeled together. After 30 minutes I was tired and got out. I was standing on the wharf so she would see me and get out too. She kept going,” he said.

“After three or four minutes I noticed she wasn’t raising her head. I searched for the snorkel tube that sticks out and couldn’t find it,” he told the Ynet news site.

“I called a lifeguard and asked him to check in on her. He jumped in with someone else. She was about 30 meters away from the wharf and they brought her back,” he said.

But according to Itzik, “they made every possible mistake. They didn’t take off her gear and laid her on her back. I could see foam and blood coming out of her mouth. I immediately realized she had had a seizure.”

He added, “They didn’t know how to perform CPR. They had no equipment. There was a tourist there who did CPR on her, but it didn’t help.”

In an interview with the Kan public broadcaster, Itzik said local staff “were trying to do something but didn’t know what to do,” noting that the site was a declared beach and that they had paid money to enter.

“Not only did the lifeguards not know what they were doing, but there wasn’t any available equipment to try and do something about the situation,” he said, adding that an ambulance only arrived after an hour “and had the wrong equipment.”

Peled was taken to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead. She leaves behind three children, Noa, Michal and Daniel.

The Foreign Ministry has been notified of the incident and is assisting the family in bringing the woman’s body back to Israel for burial.

In April, Israel’s Arkia airline offered a new direct flight from Tel Aviv to Sharm el-Sheikh, prompting a large uptick in Israeli tourism to the peninsula.

Additionally, Israel’s National Security Council scaled back its travel warning for parts of the Sinai Peninsula this year for the first time in more than a decade.

Israelis cross into Egypt through the Taba Border Crossing, in the southern Israeli city of Eilat, April 17, 2022. (Flash 90)

The past weekend saw several drowning incidents in Israel.

On Saturday, a 71-year-old man drowned after entering the Jordan River in the area of Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi in northern Israel. In another incident, a 70-year-old woman who was hiking in the Banias spring in the Golan Heights was rescued after slipping and falling into the water.

Three other Israelis were pulled out of the water after nearly drowning throughout the day.

On Friday, 15-year-old Az a-Din Awad from the town of Tamra in northern Israel was pronounced dead after drowning in the Jordan River a day earlier.

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