Tour guide in desert flood deaths may face manslaughter charges
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Tour guide in desert flood deaths may face manslaughter charges

Aviv Bardichev of the Bnei Zion pre-military academy reportedly received more specific weather warnings than academy head Yuval Kahan, but ignored them

Volunteers from the ZAKA emergency response service transport the bodies of Israeli teenagers killed in a flash flood near the Dead Sea on April 26, 2018. (ZAKA)
Volunteers from the ZAKA emergency response service transport the bodies of Israeli teenagers killed in a flash flood near the Dead Sea on April 26, 2018. (ZAKA)

Police are leaning towards upgrading to manslaughter the charges they will seek to file against a tour guide in last week’s deadly desert hike, during which 10 teenagers were swept to their deaths by a flash flood, Hebrew media reports said Monday.

The guide, Aviv Bardichev, and the head of the Bnei Zion pre-military academy, Yuval Kahan, were arrested on Friday on suspicion of causing death by negligence for ignoring flash flood warnings.

Citing “contradictions in the versions of events,” a Beersheba Magistrate’s Court extended the remands of the two until Wednesday.

Kahan is still reportedly suspected of causing death by negligence.

The Haaretz newspaper quoted a source closely involved in the case as saying that the weather warnings delivered to Berdichov were apparently much more specific than those given to Kahan.

Yuval Kahan (Facebook)

The difference between the two charges is that manslaughter is accompanied by recklessness or indifference as regards the possible outcome. The suspect should have known that such an act was highly likely to cause harm.

Police are investigating whether the organizers of the hike lied to participants about the safety of the desert trail they planned to take, as well as about their coordination, or lack thereof, with relevant authorities.

In a WhatsApp message sent to participants on Wednesday ahead of the trip, organizers had assured participants that there was nothing to worry about.

Over the weekend it was revealed that one Bnei Zion staffer advised against taking the students on a hike to the Dead Sea area amid heavy rains last week. 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 to school officials, but they went unheeded.

External view of Bnei Zion pre-military academy in Tel Aviv. (Screen capture: Google Maps)

On Sunday, the Bnei Zion academy’s Tel Aviv offices were raided by police, seizing documents and confiscating computers, after suspicions arose that the heads of the Tel Aviv-based institution were trying to obstruct the police investigation into the deadly hike.

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. Seven of the victims were laid to rest Friday and the last three on Sunday.

Israeli emergency services take part in a search and rescue mission near the Dead Sea on April 26, 2018. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)

Nine of the teenagers’ bodies were found in the course of the afternoon and evening on Thursday, and the tenth was discovered early on Friday morning.

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.

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)

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

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