The Washington Post

Man dies after sinkhole opens under swimming pool in Israel

- BY TIMOTHY BELLA

A man in central Israel was killed on Thursday after a sinkhole opened under a swimming pool during a house party for co-workers and sucked him down into a hole 43 feet deep.

Rescue teams responded to a villa in the town of Karmei Yosef, about 25 miles outside Tel Aviv, that was hosting a company event. Video of the incident shows a sinkhole opening up on Thursday afternoon, causing the pool to buckle and collapse inward as guests were in and around the pool. All of the water, inflatable rafts and toys were sucked into the large hole within seconds.

Two men were shown being dragged into the sinkhole as partygoers watched in horror and shock while dance music played poolside. While one of the men managed to climb out after falling down, the other is seen on video submerged underneath the water and attempting to escape the vortex. He then disappeare­d into the sinkhole.

After a four-hour search, firstrespo­nders were able to find the man at the bottom of the sinkhole. The man, who was pronounced dead, was identified as Klil Kimhi, 32, of Tel Aviv, according to the Times of Israel. Authoritie­s have not revealed Kimhi’s cause of death.

The couple who own the property were arrested on suspicion of negligent manslaught­er. Police say the couple, identified by Israeli media as Natan and Rachel Meller, did not apply for a permit before building the pool. At a Friday hearing, Sgt. Rami Desta accused the couple of playing “a very large contributi­on to this tragic outcome.”

“They could have prevented this outcome if they had gotten a permit,” said Desta, according to the Israeli news site Ynet.

The Mellers were released Friday morning on house arrest to their daughter’s house in Petah Tikva.

Zion Amir, the couple’s attorney, did not immediatel­y respond to a request for comment Friday. He defended his clients as “good people” during Friday’s hearing and outlined that they could not have anticipate­d a sinkhole to open under their swimming pool.

“This is a very unusual event,” he said, according to Ynet.

Sinkholes are areas of ground that lack natural external surface drainage, according to the United States Geological Survey. Spaces and caverns can develop undergroun­d as rock below the land surfaces, such as limestone, carbonate rock or salt beds, dissolve. One of the reasons sinkholes can be so dramatic is because a sudden collapse of the land surface can occur at any time, according to USGS.

In the United States, the most damage from sinkholes tends to occur in states such as Florida, Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvan­ia and Tennessee, the USGS says. Just this week, video captured a New York City van falling into a sinkhole in the Bronx.

Sinkholes are also an issue in Israel. Ittai Gavrieli, a senior researcher with the Israel Geological Institute told Agence France-Presse last year that there were thousands of sinkholes in and around Israel, including around the shores of the Dead Sea.

Roughly 50 people were at the house party Thursday, according to the Times of Israel. One guest told TV station Keshet 12 that everything happened so fast, and that it wasn’t immediatel­y clear what was unfolding before them.

“The water level suddenly started receding and a hole opened up, creating a vortex that swept two people inside,” she said.

Aviv Bublil, the lifeguard who worked at the pool party, recounted to Ynet how “the ground just dropped.”

“I saw two people … two people were missing,” Bublil said.

The 34-year-old man who climbed out of the sinkhole suffered minor injuries to his head and legs, Uri Damari, a paramedic with Magen David Adom, told the Jerusalem Post.

Photos shared by authoritie­s show how the giant sinkhole ripped through the middle of the pool.

On social media, friends are flooding Kimhi’s Facebook page with remembranc­es.

“May his memory be a blessing,” the Israel Hayom newspaper wrote on its Facebook account.

On Friday, Amir, the attorney for the homeowners with the pool, emphasized at the hearing that the fatal sinkhole incident was “a terrible tragedy” that was “no less unusual than a lightning strike.”

“Such a thing happens once in a hundred years,” Amir said, according to Ynet. “And it unfortunat­ely happened.”

 ?? ISRAELI FIRE And Rescue Services/associated PRESS ?? Israeli rescuers work in a sinkhole formed under a swimming pool in Karmei Yosef, Israel, on Thursday. The sinkhole formed during a party that a couple was hosting at their home for co-workers.
ISRAELI FIRE And Rescue Services/associated PRESS Israeli rescuers work in a sinkhole formed under a swimming pool in Karmei Yosef, Israel, on Thursday. The sinkhole formed during a party that a couple was hosting at their home for co-workers.

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