Police launch internal probe following death of 19-year-old at outdoor rave

Southern District commander orders force to look into its conduct, after preliminary investigation finds officers had received calls about party where Ariel Yoav Tzafrir collapsed

Ariel Tzafrir (Facebook)
Ariel Tzafrir (Facebook)

Southern District Police Commander Yoram Sofer ordered an internal probe on Saturday into the force’s conduct in responding to the death of a teenager at an outdoor rave.

Ariel Yoav Tzafrir, a 19-year-old soldier from the West Bank settlement of Barkan, died after collapsing during a party at the Pura Nature Reserve in the south on Friday, which was the hottest day recorded in Israel’s history.

According to Hebrew media reports, a preliminary investigation found police first received a call from a resident of nearby Kibbutz Ruhama at 8:50 a.m. about an outdoor party. The caller expressed concerns about a gathering being held amid the coronavirus pandemic, and his report was unconnected to Tzafrir.

A patrol car from Sderot was then dispatched to the area and made contact with the caller, who was unable to direct the officers to where the party was being held.

Footage aired by the Kan public broadcaster on September 4, 2020 shows the outdoor rave in the Pura Nature Reserve in southern Israel, where Ariel Yoav Tzafrir collapsed. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Around this time, another call was made to police about a party suspected of violating the Health Ministry’s COVID-19 guidelines against large gatherings. Police searched the area for around two hours, but left after failing to find it.

Police said they didn’t receive any report about Tzafrir during this time and only at 1:30 p.m. learned from the Magen David Adom ambulance service about a young man in critical condition who was brought by his friends to Route 40.

Tzafrir was rushed from there in critical condition to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, where doctors were forced to pronounce his death shortly thereafter. Alcohol and drugs were found in his system and medics believe the combination of those substances, along with the extreme heat, caused his death.

Police have arrested four people suspected of organizing the rave and detained four others, reports said.

The suspects later told investigators that Tzafrir first said he was feeling unwell at 6:30 a.m., but no one called for help or evacuated him. Tzafrir collapsed at 12:30 p.m., which was reported to MDA 28 minutes later, according to the Ynet news site.

“If the police had answered the calls they received to reach the party, it would have been possible to save my child. Ariel is a responsible child, he didn’t touch drugs,” Tzafrir’s mother Anat told the Kan public broadcaster.

She added: “One of the friends [who were] with him say he thought something was put in his drink. He was completely fine, [but then] within minutes he collapsed.”

Police also said the party was held in a wadi, so it would be harder for police to find.

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