‘No foul play seen’ in Makkah crane collapse
Fourteen people are on trial after a collapsed crane killed and injured hundreds of pilgrims last year
Saudi Arabia’s Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution (BIP) has dismissed any criminal motive behind the fall of the giant crane on the Grand Mosque last September, according to sources of the Summary Court in Jeddah which is trying 14 suspects in the case.
Hundreds of pilgrims were killed and injured in the tragedy.
The sources said the BIP has also dismissed the pretext of strong winds and thunderbolts as the main causes for the 1,300-ton crane crash.
They said the bureau, however, believes that the crane was stationed in a wrong position when it was subjected to strong winds exceeding 80km/h.
“The position of the crane was contrary to the instructions contained in the operations manual of the manufacturing company,” the bureau said.
According to the BIP, the right arm of the crane was at an angle of 85 degrees which was wrong.
Citing the operations manual, the bureau said the right arm should have been pulled down in case the crane was not in use and also at times of bad weather.
The bureau decided to initiate a separate case against an expatriate who is involved in the incident but fled the Kingdom. It asked the concerned authorities to bring him back to stand trial.
According to a report of the Finance Ministry, an Egyptian engineer who was in charge of operating the crane, had stubbornly refused to respond to its repeated requests to remove the crane away from the Grand Mosque especially as it was not in use for about 10 months.
According to the sources, the BIP has so far investigated more than 80 engineers and technicians and reviewed several reports including one on the safety procedures and the maintenance of the crane.
They said the bureau also decided to summon other people for investigations including officials from the Finance Ministry, members of the technical committee of Umm Al-Qura University which is monitoring the expansion projects, officials from the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME), the Civil Defense and the department of projects at the Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques.
Meanwhile, sources have revealed that the Binladin Group has presented a written commitment to the court to bear all the costs of the repair of the damaged sections of the Grand Mosque.
Fourteen people are on trial in the case. Newspaper reports said six Saudis, including a billionaire, as well as two Pakistanis, a Canadian, a Jordanian, a Palestinian, an Egyptian, an Emirati and a Filipino are on trial. The defendants’ names were not made public.
The defendants are accused of negligence, damaging public property and ignoring safety guidelines.
This article first appeared in the Saudi Gazette on Aug. 18, 2016.