Two men were shown being dragged into the sinkhole as revelers watched in horror and shock as dance music played by the pool. While one of the men managed to get out after falling, the other is seen on video submerged underwater and trying to escape the vortex. He then disappeared into the abyss.
After a four-hour search, first responders were able to find the man at the bottom – Klil Kimhi, 32, from Tel Aviv – who was pronounced dead, according to The Times of Israel. Authorities have not released Kimhi’s cause of death.
The couple who own the property have been arrested on suspicion of negligent homicide. Police say the couple, identified by Israeli media as Natan and Rachel Meller, did not apply for a permit before building the pool. During a hearing Friday, Sgt. Rami Desta accused the couple of playing “a very big contribution to this tragic outcome”.
“They could have prevented this outcome if they had obtained a permit,” Desta said, according to Israeli news site Ynet.
The Mellers were released on Friday morning under house arrest at their daughter’s home in Petah Tikva.
Zion Amir, the couple’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday. He defended his clients by calling them “good people” at Friday’s hearing and stressed that they could not have expected a sinkhole to open under their swimming pool.
“It’s a very unusual occurrence,” he said, according to Ynet.
Sinkholes are areas of soil that lack natural external surface drainage, according to the United States Geological Survey. Gaps and caverns can develop underground when rock beneath land surfaces, such as limestone, carbonate rock, or salt beds, dissolves. One of the reasons sinkholes can be so dramatic is that a sudden collapse of the earth’s surface can occur at any time, according to the USGS.
In the United States, most sinkhole damage tends to occur in states such as Florida, Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, according to the USGS. Just this week, video captured a New York pickup truck falling into a sinkhole in the Bronx.
The sinkholes are also a problem in Israel. Ittai Gavrieli, a senior researcher at the Geological Institute of Israel, told Agence France-Presse last year that there are thousands of sinkholes in and around Israel, including around the shores of the Dead Sea. .
About 50 people were at the house party on Thursday, according to The Times of Israel. A guest told Keshet 12 that it all happened so fast and it wasn’t immediately clear what was happening in front of them.
“The water level suddenly started to drop 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, told Ynet how “the ground just fell off.”
“I saw two people…two people were missing,” Bublil said.
The 34-year-old who climbed out suffered minor head and leg injuries, Magen David Adom paramedic Uri Damari told The Jerusalem Post.
Photos shared by authorities show how the giant sinkhole tore through the middle of the pool.
On social media, friends flood Kimhi’s Facebook page with memories.
“May his memory be a blessing,” wrote the Israel Hayom newspaper on its Facebook account.
On Friday, Amir, the pool owners’ lawyer, told 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 every hundred years,” Amir said, according to Ynet. “And it unfortunately happened.”