Little Bits of History

Wedding Disaster

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 24, 2011

Versailles wedding hall collapse

May 24, 2001: The third floor of the Versailles wedding hall collapses. The hall was located in Talpiot, Jerusalem. It was a Thursday evening and the newly married Keren and Asaf Dror were celebrating their wedding when the floor simply vanished. At 10:43 p.m. the third floor gave way with 23 people falling to their deaths. Another 380 were injured. The bride and groom both survived. Shocking enough in its own right, the disaster was captured by someone at the wedding filming events. The collapse was broadcast both locally and on international television.

Rescue efforts began immediately with some of the surviving 700 wedding guests helping family and friends. Others joined in the attempt to free people from the rubble. The floors collapsed one on top of the other and it took days to complete rescue efforts. Eli Beer, the first EMT on the scene, instituted Israel’s mass casualty response. The rescue was spearheaded by the Home Front Command’s Search & Rescue Unit. There were 23 bodies pulled from the ruins. Amazingly enough, three people were extricated alive.

Of immediate concern was whether or not this was a terrorist attack. It was found to be due to structural failure. The building was engineered using the Pal-Kal method, a light-weight coffered concrete floor building system. The floor was seen to sag just before it collapsed, wedding guests reported. The area of collapse was initially designed to be a two story building while the other side of the building was to be three stories. During the construction phase, it was decided to create the building all one height and the load bearing was too much for the base. To offset this (at least partially) a lighter weight method of construction was used.

Just a few weeks prior to the wedding, the building owners removed partitions on the second floor to create a more open space. Unfortunately, these were load bearing walls and the floor above began to sag. The building owners didn’t realize the enormity of the consequences and thought it was only a cosmetic issue. The three owners of the building were convicted of causing death by negligence and damage by negligence. The inventor of the Pal-Kal method and three others involved in the construction have also received prison sentences for death and sabotage by negligence. The wedding hall was demolished and the site remains sealed.

“Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.” – Michael Leunig

“True love stories never have endings.” – Richard Bach

“Spouse: someone who’ll stand by you through all the trouble you wouldn’t have had if you’d stayed single.” – unknown

“The highest happiness on earth is marriage.” – William Lyon Phelps

Also on this day:
Caveat Emptor – In 1626 Peter Minuit buys Manhattan.
News – In 1958, the UPI was formed.

3 Responses

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  1. Sherry said, on February 27, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Horrible tragedy. The video taken by a wedding guest showing the floor dropping out from under the dancing crowd is shocking, as are all the photos of the structural damage. Although the owners and other were convicted in a criminal court, I don’t believe any of them did a day behind bars.

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