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J'lem Gas Explosion: 'Everything Will Be Investigated'

'Supergas' technician arrested for questioning; he had been called to the building in the evening before the blast.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 1/20/2014, 12:38 PM

Aftermath of gas explosion in Jerusalem
Aftermath of gas explosion in Jerusalem
Flash 90

Public Security Minster Yitzhak Aharonovich on Monday visited the site of the gas balloon explosion that left three dead in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo the night before. The three were a couple in their 30s and their two-year-old baby.

"It's a difficult incident, tragic, which cut short the lives of three members of one family," commented Aharonovich. "I saw the measure of destruction, it's massive destruction. Unfortunately it isn't the first incident" of this type, he remarked, noting a similar explosion in Netanya three years ago that killed 4.

"Everything will be investigated and I am certain the police will make the necessary findings. I'm not looking to name the guilty, let's wait a few days," added the minister, saying after the investigation "we'll know what we can do to deal with these incidents."

However, investigators did not wait. On Monday a technician with the gas company Supergas was arrested and questioned after it became clear he had been called to the building Sunday evening by neighbors living next to the apartment that exploded, who had smelled gas.

It is suspected that the blast was caused by a gas leak. The explosion killed the family and left 14 injured, including a 50-year-old woman in serious condition, and an 80-year-old couple in moderate condition.

Professor Avi Rivkin of Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital's emergency and trauma ward treated the wounded, noting some were already sent home. He noted that the 50-year-old woman was suffering from a complex wound.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat arrived on the site Sunday night soon after the explosion.

"I don't remember something like this, the extent is very severe," remarked Barkat. "These are very dangerous buildings and we must close the area to allow rescue forces to work. The municipality's welfare department will help find a place to stay for those who need. We are trying to to digest (the event), tonight there was a tragedy here."

Supergas released a statement reading "from the initial details at our disposal, it is clear that at 8:10 p.m. at night a technician was summoned to the building, following a telephone request from residents of the building. According to the technician's report, he closed the gas faucets. Unfortunately, an explosion occurred later that night."

"According to the law, the main gas system in the building was supposed to have been checked once every five years," the statement continues. "In the building in which the blast occurred a check was carried out September 2012, and the system was found to be in order. The company will cooperate with the police and other authorities to conduct an investigation."

Neighbors in shock: 'they were a great religious couple'

Neighbors in the building had difficulty dealing with the reality of the explosion that took the lives of an entire family.

"We're in shock. They were a great couple, good people that only wanted to build their home in quiet," said one of the neighbors.

"This was a religious couple that was married about 5 years ago. About 2 years ago their son was born, their only son," another neighbor added. "We can't digest the fact that an entire family was wiped out. It's just inconceivable."

The United Hatzalah emergency center reported that tens of volunteer medics arrived at the scene over the night to administer treatment. "The death of the couple was determined on the spot. They tried to save the infant and brought him to the hospital, but there he was determined to be dead."

David Krispel, a member of United Hatzalah's on-call staff that took part in rescue efforts, called the explosion "a difficult tragedy - the center received a call from someone who heard the blast in the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem, many on-call staff were sent to the site."

"There we found great destruction, a large part of the building collapsed, and there was fear the whole building would collapse," said Krispel. "Together with the other security forces we treated 15 injured, some of them in serious condition, and some of them evacuated for resuscitation to the hospital.

Krispel adds "in my many years in the field I've never seen such difficult sights."



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Aftermath of the explosion in Jerusalem Hezki Ezra