About a month ago, a young man lost his life at a pool party after being sucked into a sinkhole that opened beneath the swimming pool. Was this due to bad luck or an unavoidable accident? Not really — pool owners have a lot to do in order to avoid unnecessary disasters – from orderly construction using a building permit, construction using quality materials, taking protective measures against the drowning of children, and other security actions.
A work party held a little less than a month ago in a luxurious villa in the community of Karmei Yosef ended tragically when a sinkhole that opened at the bottom of the pool drew one of the employees – a 32-year-old man, who was killed in the incident. The disastrous event raises questions about the level of safety of the private pool sector in Israel, and naturally many Israelis today ask themselves whether such a disaster can also occur in the private pool where they usually paddle.
A conversation between Buyitinisrael and professionals in the field of private pools in Israel shows that, indeed, there is much to be done in order to increase the level of safety in private pools. It is important to note that immediately after the incident, the owners of the villa were arrested for questioning, when it turned out, among other things, that the place operated without a business license, and even worse – the pool was built without a building permit. According to the officials with whom we spoke, any swimming pool installed in a private house requires a building permit, even the simple fiberglass pools placed on the ground, let alone large pools dug into the ground, such as the pool in a villa in Karmei Yosef. It is important to understand that each pool carries the weight of the water it contains. In large pools, the weight of the water may reach hundreds of tons.
For this reason, the material from which the pool is made is also important. “A concrete pool is the safest pool. The concrete makes it possible to pour the pool piles into the ground and its chances of moving or getting hurt, in any way later on aim for zero,” says Avner Tzadok, CEO, and owner of Pelegim, a company that specializes in pool design. “The construction itself is only after the reinforcement and foundation of the pool. The pools are cast in one cast, and thus their chances of cracking or breaking are nil.”
He further stated that as part of the permit process, thorough checks are carried out to check the stability of the soil, without which it is impossible to issue a building permit. In this case, such testing could have prevented the disaster, since the entire area sits on underground cavities and burial caves, and it is estimated that the pool with its large water weight partially collapsed into one of these spaces, thus creating the sinkhole. “Each type of soil has a different resistance to the weight imposed on it and therefore it is the constructor who performs all the calculations of the pool body. It refers in advance to the type of land and the location where the pool is going to be built.”
Referring to the disaster in Karmei Yosef, Zadok says that “such an event can only happen if the owners of the pool did not follow the construction rules or if they used substandard materials.”
Notwithstanding all of the above, it is important to remember that the kind of tragedy that occurred is extreme and very rare. Most accidents that may occur in private swimming pools are not related to sinkholes but to more everyday dangers, such as G-d forbid, the drowning of small children who may enter or fall into the pool when there is no adult around, injury and cuts of the bathers due to sharp corners of the pool edges, etc.
Therefore, according to Tzadok, those who currently plan or build a pool should pay attention to a number of important factors: “In a home with children, safety covers should be taken care of that close the pool hermetically when there are no adults watching over it.” He continues. “It is also necessary to take care of proper planning of the entrance and exit from the pool by installing platforms inside the pool that allow setting the height of the water to the desired height for children, and even for babies.”
He also recommends paying attention to the finishes of the pool: “The flooring around the pool must be made of a material that is defined as “anti-slip” which, as its name implies, prevents slipping. Also inside the pool – a good level of material will avoid situations of possible cuts on the feet of bathers. The pool cladding should also be in a rounded finish and not sharp-edged which can cause further injuries.”
If there is a lesson to be learned from the tragedy at Karmei Yosef, it is that despite the great frustration involved in lengthy bureaucratic planning, and the lack of importance that is sometimes attributed to them, ignoring them can bear the ultimate cost of human life. It is clear that in this particular case, orderly construction of the pool using a permit could have prevented the disaster.
In this aspect, it is also interesting to pay attention to the functioning of the local authority – the Gezer Regional Council. The local authority is responsible for enforcing the planning and building laws in its territory, as well as the business licensing laws. In this case, the villa in question operated for 27 years as a party site for rent, without a business license, and with a pool built without a permit. In the weeks following the tragic incident, there were questions in the press about the authority’s role in the disaster and whether it too could be held considered responsible for what happened. While sadly these discussions will not bring back the life of the deceased at the pool party, but it is hoped that this will encourage the authorities to take action to examine the behavior of dozens, and perhaps even hundreds, of similar sites currently operating in Israel.