IDF sergeant collapses and dies during half marathon; over 20 hospitalized
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IDF sergeant collapses and dies during half marathon; over 20 hospitalized

Tel Aviv City Hall expresses condolences on death due to heat, but says race was approved by Health Ministry and local hospital; family demands investigation committee

Runners take part in the Tel Aviv half marathon on Friday (photo credit: courtesy of Jonathan Fisch)
Runners take part in the Tel Aviv half marathon on Friday (photo credit: courtesy of Jonathan Fisch)

A participant in the Tel Aviv half marathon collapsed and died Friday morning, and more than 20 others were hospitalized due to extremely hot conditions.

Michael Michaelovitch (photo: Channel 2 screenshot)
Michael Michaelovitch (photo: Channel 2 screenshot)

The deceased runner, Michael Michaelovitch, was a 29-year-old IDF sergeant from the settlement of Tene, south of Hebron. An experienced runner who had trained thoroughly for the race, Michaelovitch collapsed along the route and was taken to the city’s Sourasky Medical Center, where his death was confirmed. Twelve other participants were in serious condition at the same hospital, with four of them on respirators, reported Israel Radio.

Michaelovitch, who served in the IDF’s “Oketz” canine unit, was posthumously promoted to the rank of Master Sergeant.

Friends of the non-commissioned officer said he was in excellent shape and was used to running 20 kilometers a day. His family demanded the launch of an investigative committee.

His funeral has been scheduled to take place in Beersheba at 11 p.m. Saturday night.

Some 80 runners were lightly to moderately injured, and received treatment from Magen David Adom on-site. In total, 22 people were hospitalized in Tel Aviv area hospitals, according to the report.

Tel Aviv City Hall expressed sorrow for the death and said an investigation would be launched, but noted that the municipality acted “according to the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Ichilov Hospital [Sourasky Medical Center], which instructed us to cancel the full marathon and proceed with the half marathon as scheduled.”

Sourasky Medical Center Director Prof. Gabi Barbash said the decision to hold the race was taken “judiciously.”

“It’s easy to criticize in retrospect, but this was an informed decision by the municipality,” he said.

About 35,000 runners participated in the half marathon, held as a late-winter heat wave gripped the country. Some 150,000 spectators cheered them on from impromptu concerts and events along the race route.

Temperatures in Tel Aviv were expected to rise up to a sweltering 34 degrees Celsius (93.2 Fahrenheit) throughout the day, with 35% humidity.

A woman pours water down her back during the Tel Aviv half marathon on Friday. (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash90)
A woman pours water down her back during the Tel Aviv half marathon on Friday. (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash90)

The Tel Aviv municipality announced Tuesday that the annual full marathon would be postponed by a week, because of the unseasonably high temperatures in the forecast.

The city said it contemplated postponing the entire event, including the half marathon, but decided such a move would be impossible because of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel next week.

The municipality said runners who have registered for the marathon, but do not wish to compete next week, will be compensated.

In 2011, a 42-year-old runner died after suffering from heatstroke during the 42-kilometer run. Fifteen more runners were hospitalized with heatstroke and an additional 50 were treated for dehydration.

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