15 Years Later, Versailles Wedding Hall Victims Get Compensation

YERUSHALAYIM -
The Versailles wedding hall in the aftermath of the 2001 disaster. (Flash90)
The Versailles wedding hall in the aftermath of the 2001 disaster. (Flash90)

Fifteen years after the Versailles wedding hall tragedy in Yerushalayim, in which 23 people were killed and 250 were injured, the state has agreed to compensate victims with the total combined amount of 120 million shekels, Ynet reported on Wednesday.

The disaster occurred during a chasunah, when the dance floor collapsed and people plunged to the floor below. A subsequent investigation determined that the cause was the use of the Pal-Kal method, a system of building lightweight concrete floors which had been banned before the wedding hall was built because it was rated unsafe.

Attorneys for the state stipulated that although it has agreed to pay out the compensation money to all 428 plaintiffs, it must be reimbursed by the other defendants in the case: the Yerushalayim Municipality the Technion and the Standards Institution of Israel. The state declared to the court that its agreement to pay the entire amount is a courtesy on its part, and not an admission of guilt.

In the years since the disaster, 15 of the injured have passed away. Yaakov Haim, who along with his family was injured in the disaster, said Monday, “I’m very happy to finally see the money, I just hope it actually comes through. People have been suffering for 15 years, and it really is time to put an end to this.”

Haim, his wife Ziva and their children were all injured in various degrees. “They got there before me and I arrived a minute before the disaster. I got to the table and all of a sudden everything collapsed and my wife and I fell down. I had fractures in my hand, leg and back. My wife and I were bedridden for an entire year.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs welcomed the decision, but were critical of the government’s handling of the case.

“We welcome the decision to pay damages and we are sorry that the victims had to wait so many years for the state, the municipality, Technion and Standards Institution to agree to take responsibility for the physical and emotional damage caused by the disaster. This proposal had already been offered by a Knesset committee in 2002, and could have prevented years of suffering and allowed victims to move on. We hope that if, G-d forbid, there are other disasters, lessons will have been learned and compensation will be delivered in an appropriate time.”

According to the compensation outline, whoever wasn’t physically injured will receive NIS 50,000 plus interest, while those more than 20% handicapped with receive NIS 6,000 more for every additional percentage of disability. The estates of those killed in the incident will be compensated with NIS 75,000, along with an additional NIS 10,000 for every year of expected decrease in life expectancy. Upon the passing of victims, NIS 10,000 plus interest will also be provided for funeral expenses.

The owners of the Versailles hall—Adi Avraham, Efraim Adiv and Uri Nissim— were convicted in 2004 of negligence and wrongful death and sentenced to three and a half years in prison. The judge ruled that after noticing the depression in the dance floor the owners should have consulted an engineer instead of trying to deal with the problem themselves.