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Owners of collapsed pool released to house arrest after party-goer’s death

Natan and Rachel Meller suspected of operating a business without a license and money laundering, in addition to negligent manslaughter; police request to extend detention denied

Natan and Rachel Meler, owners of the villa and pool in which Klil Kimchi perished in a sinkhole Thursday night, arrive for a court hearing at the Magistrate's Court in Petah Tikva on July 22, 2022. (Flash90)
Natan and Rachel Meler, owners of the villa and pool in which Klil Kimchi perished in a sinkhole Thursday night, arrive for a court hearing at the Magistrate's Court in Petah Tikva on July 22, 2022. (Flash90)

The owners of the central Israel pool that was the site of Thursday’s sinkhole collapse that killed a man during a party were released to house arrest Friday morning.

The couple, identified as Natan and Rachel Meller, were ordered to stay in their daughter’s house in Petah Tikva and were explicitly banned from their hometown of Karmei Yosef until at least Monday at noon.

“There is some concern that unconditional release would lead to disruption in the investigation procedures,” Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court Judge Carmit Ben Eliezer wrote in her decision.

A police request to keep the couple in detention for an extra week was denied by the court.

The Mellers own the villa and attached pool in which 32-year-old Klil Kimhi perished Thursday when a sinkhole opened up as his marketing company held a party in the space. Kimhi was sucked into the underground hole. His body was found after hours of searches.

The couple was detained Thursday on suspicion of negligent manslaughter. They are suspected of renting their home — and thus operating a business — without a license, and of money laundering.

The house regularly hosts such gatherings, Hebrew media outlets reported, but the owners did not apply for a permit before building the pool. An unsourced report on Kan news claimed such a permit would not have been given due to known infrastructural problems at the site.

The sinkhole that opened up in a pool at a home in Karmei Yosef, July 21, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Izzy Goren, chairman of Karmei Yosef’s council, noted that the home is located within 50 meters of an underground cave.

A second man was nearly pulled away by the receding water in the incident but managed to climb out. He suffered light injuries to his lower body and was treated at the scene by paramedics.

Fire and Rescue Services said the search was complicated by fears that tunnels branching out of the sinkhole could cause a secondary collapse. They built a support structure to prevent the pool’s surface from further collapsing on them before they were able to locate the missing man’s body.

Police announced later Thursday evening that they were opening an investigation into the death.

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