Mecca crane collapse case goes to criminal court
Workers survey the aftermath of a crane that collapsed at Mecca's Grand Mosque, killing more than 100 worshippers. (AFP/File)
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Charges and a trial are expected soon over last year’s crane collapse in Mecca that killed 111 pilgrims and injured 238 people just days before the start of the annual Haj pilgrimage.
The Bureau of Investigation (BIP) and Prosecution in Mecca has handed over its findings to Mecca’s criminal court for judicial review. Details of the investigation have not been made public.
The crane collapsed amid unusually strong winds on Sept. 11, piercing through parts of the roof of the Grand Mosque and bringing down slabs of concrete on worshippers.
After a series of investigations that lasted eight months, the bureau passed the case to the Criminal Court. It called a number of defendants and recorded their testimonies.
Investigations were conducted in complete confidentiality. Defendants, including engineers, residents and officials working in the two government agencies in Mecca, were referred to court.
They admitted their role in the project, either direct or as supervisors. The defendants, however, insisted that they followed safety procedures in all major projects in the holy city.
The case has been under intensive review by officials of the BIP in Mecca and the main center in Riyadh.
The defendants’ statements included technical explanations about work on large projects, senior engineers’ and specialists’ accounts on the use of large cranes at construction projects, and other matters related to work on expansion while surrounded by a very high number of people throughout the year.
The commission of inquiry said the incident happened because of the strong winds that hit the crane while it was hoisted, a position contrary to the manufacturer’s operating instructions.
Dozens of cranes surround Mecca’s Grand Mosque, part of a massive construction effort headed by the Saudi Binladin Group. The Binladin family runs major building projects.
It’s still unclear who will be charged and how many facing trial will include government officials and executives and engineers from the Binladin Group.
After the incident, the construction giant was blamed and it was alleged that the crane’s arm should not have been left up when it was not in use. Several company executives were also banned from traveling abroad.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman had ordered SR1 million to be paid to the relatives of those killed, and the same amount to those permanently injured. Those with lesser injuries were to receive half that amount.