Engineers in Chandelier Accident: Criminally Negligent?

Monday night's chandelier accident which killed one woman and left 21 people injured is the result of criminal negligence, police said Thursday – after revealing that the man responsible for placing the light fixture was grossly inadequate for the job. 

Oren Zarog, the Operations Manager for the Adaya hall in Yavneh where the tragedy unfolded, had no professional training in contracting and had worked in the past as the DJ and a real estate agent. 

Yet it was Zarog who decided to take the complicated matter of structural engineering into his own hands when designing the chandelier – choosing the lamps, the cables, and the motors for the structure before calling in outside professionals to build it using his materials, according to Walla! News

Police also revealed Thursday during a hearing over the accident in the Rishon LeZion Magistrate's Court that safety engineer Otniel Mader, who was responsible for clearing the ill-fated project, may have obstructed the investigation. 

Mader arrived at the hall after it had been closed  due to the accident and attempted to disrupt police work at the scene, they said. Police did not elaborate on what he attempted. 

Mader's lawyer, Attorney Yaron Forer, told the hearing that his client was unable to see that the installation was dynamic and not static – a difference in movement of the structure which could have drastically changed the weight or structural safety requirements for the light fixture. "Only an electrical engineer and a mechanical engineer could confirm this," Forer argued. 

Police responded that it was Mader's responsibility to double-check the load the chandeliers were straining on the roof, as well as to check the cables of the chandelier. In earlier stages of the investigation, it was revealed that all four cables had been shorn from their fittings in one blow. 

Police also revealed that, despite Mader's claims that the owners of the hall added elements to the structure after it was approved, multiple Facebook photos and the original blueprints bear no changes from the chandelier that fell, nor from the identical one currently being held aloft. 

Mader was also convicted in February 2005 for carrying out construction work without a license; his conviction was subsequently revoked in favor of 80 hours of community service. 

Monday night's accident killed 54 year-old Aviva Hayon and injured 21 people. Some 800 people had flooded the hall at the time for a wedding. 

The case has raised questions about the safety considerations of Israel's building boom, after one expert revealed that up to half of wedding halls in Israel are unlicensed.

Several high-profile structural collapses around the globe have been attributed to a combination of aesthetics and poor or faulty engineering, including the 1981 Hyatt Regency Skywalk Collapse in Kansas City and – to a lesser extent – the 1984 Hotel New World disaster in Singapore. 


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