Maccabiah bridge collapse blame falls far and wide

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JERUSALEM — The July 14 collapse of a pedestrian bridge at the Maccabiah Games was caused by a chain of failures involving the bridge's planning and construction.

This was the finding released Wednesday by a public commission that investigated the collapse, which killed two Australian athletes.

The commission did not recommend legal action against those involved in building the bridge.

Instead, it will present its findings to Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein, who will decide whether to launch a criminal investigation.

In addition to the deaths, more than 60 athletes were injured when the bridge buckled beneath them as they waited to march into the Ramat Gan stadium where the games' opening ceremony was being held.

During questioning by police and the commission, officials involved in the bridge's planning and construction traded accusations over responsibility for the collapse.

Despite the attempts to shift blame, the commission of inquiry found fault at all levels — from the engineer, to the contracting company that built the bridge, to the Maccabiah organizing committee.

The commission concluded that the engineer, Micha Bar Ilan, had never submitted an engineering plan for the bridge, did not design a bridge to meet the intended needs and did not properly oversee the work.

The contracting company, Karagula-Ben Ezra, was faulted for doing shoddy work, using substandard materials and being unauthorized to build such a structure.

The commission also said there was no coordination between the engineer and the contractors.

In addition, the commission also blamed the Maccabiah organizers for the poor coordination that led up to the tragedy.

The commission rejected the suggestion that the collapse was caused by a number of small all-terrain police vehicles that drove over the bridge shortly before the opening ceremony.