Police recommend academy head, counselor be charged over flood disaster

Police recommend academy head, counselor be charged over flood disaster

Bnei Zion academy director could be charged with negligent homicide while counselor could face harsher charge of manslaughter over 10 students killed during hike

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

Israel Police on Sunday recommended that both the counselor and the former head of the Bnei Zion premilitary academy involved in last month’s desert hike, in which 10 teenagers were swept to their deaths by a flash flood, face criminal charges.

Police recommended that the counselor, Aviv Bardichev, be indicted for manslaughter while academy director Yuval Kahan — who resigned earlier this month — be charged with the lesser offense of negligent homicide.

Bardichev will potentially face the harsher charge of manslaughter because the weather warnings delivered to him were apparently much more specific than those given to Kahan.

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 traveling in the area.

Rescue forces near the scene where 10 young Israelis were swept to their deaths in flash floods in the Tzafit riverbed, near the Dead Sea in southern Israel, on April 26, 2018. (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90)

Kahan was also said to have known about the route change but chose to trust Bardichev’s judgment.

The reports said police haven’t yet decided whether to file charges against another counselor at the academy, Noam Dor, who warned Bardichev ahead of time of flash floods.

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.

Dor’s lawyer said “we are happy that the police recommendation clears her of any suspicions and are sure the prosecution will adopt that recommendation,” according to the Ynet news outlet.

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)

In a WhatsApp message sent to participants on Wednesday 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.

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

read more: