TEL AVIV — Four of five officials found guilty of negligence in the collapse of a footbridge at the 1997 Maccabiah Games were sentenced to prison terms Monday. Four Australian athletes died in the bridge collapse.
The Maccabiah Games bring Jewish athletes from around the world to Israel for competitions and festivities every four years.
On July 14, 1997, athletes were to enter a stadium for a gala opening ceremony by way of a rickety footbridge over the polluted Yarkon River. The bridge buckled, dumping the Australian delegation into the river. More than 70 athletes were injured.
The engineer who designed the bridge, Micha Bar-Ilan, was sentenced to 21 months in prison. The contractors who built the bridge, Baruch Karagula and Yehoshua Ben-Ezra, were sentenced to 15 months, and the organizer who hired them, Adam Mishori, received a six-month sentence.
The fifth defendant, Maccabiah Games Chairman Yoram Eyal, was sentenced to six months of community service.
Many athletes who fell into the river were infected by the polluted waters. One is Sasha Elterman, 18, who ingested a poisonous fungus. She has undergone more than 30 operations and is still seriously ill. Born in Los Angeles, she has dual American-Australian citizenship.