The Israel Police will question the teenaged rider of an electric bike as a criminal suspect in the death of his friend, 17-year-old Ari Nesher, who was killed last week after a drunk driver hit the pair as they rode the bike in Tel Aviv.
The parents of the boy, 16, responded by claiming that police were looking to shift blame from the alleged driver, a Premier League soccer player, who fled the accident and was later found to have several times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood.
Nesher, the son of acclaimed Israeli director Avi Nesher, was seriously injured in the September 24 accident and succumbed to his wounds four days later. He was buried on Sunday.
Police were accusing the teenager of carrying Nesher as a second passenger on the bike and of swerving into the car’s path.
The surviving teen, who moderately injured in the accident, was slated to have been questioned under caution on Thursday but did not show up. It was then rescheduled for Friday morning. He has not been named in media reports.
Police spokesperson Merav Lapidot told Army Radio that being injured in the accident was no excuse for not facing investigation.
“If he would not have rode with him [as a passenger] on the bike, Ari Nesher would be alive today,” Lapidot said. “Do you expect that because he was injured we won’t investigate? How can we bring justice for Ari’s parents?”
“If he hadn’t swerved from his path, Ari would be alive today,” Lapidot continued, noting that it is illegal to carry passengers on an electric bike.
Speaking to Army Radio, the boy’s mother, Ruth, said the police had shown “no feeling” toward her son and suggested the force was under pressure to reduce the culpability of the soccer player.
Hadashot TV news said it obtained a recording of a conversation between a police investigator and the boy’s parents in which the officer said that the bike’s swerve into the street played a “significant” role in causing the accident.
The suspected driver, soccer player Yitzhak Asefa, was released Tuesday to house arrest for nine days over the accident, with a judge rejecting his request to join his team’s practices.
Asefa, 20, allegedly fled the scene after the accident, which took place on Tel Aviv’s Rokach Boulevard. He was arrested shortly thereafter by police, who said his blood alcohol level was found to be five times the legal limit.
Nesher’s death drew attention to safety concerns over electric bicycles which have few regulations in Israel.
The Prime Minister’s Office on Monday said Netanyahu instructed his chief of staff, Yoav Horovitz, the Ministry of Public Security, as well as the Justice and Transportation Ministries to propose a series of measures to increase the safety of electric bicycle riders.