Two men were shown being dragged down the sinkhole while partygoers looked on in horror and shock while dance music played by the pool. While one of the men managed to climb out after falling, the other is seen on video diving underwater and trying to escape the whirlpool. Then he disappeared into the sinkhole.
After a four-hour search, first responders were able to find the man at the bottom of the hole – Klil Kimhi, 32, from Tel Aviv – who was pronounced dead, according to the Times of Israel. Authorities have not disclosed Kimhi’s cause of death.
The couple who own the property have been arrested on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter. Police say the couple, identified by Israeli media as Natan and Rachel Meller, did not apply for a permit before building the pool. At a hearing Friday, Sgt. Rami Desta accused the couple of “contributing very greatly to this tragic outcome.”
“They could have prevented this outcome if they had gotten permission,” Desta said, according to Israeli news site Ynet.
The Mellers were released under house arrest at their daughter’s home in Petah Tikva on Friday morning.
Zion Amir, the couple’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday. He defended his clients as “good people” during Friday’s hearing, saying they could not foresee a sinkhole opening under their swimming pool.
“This is a very unusual event,” he said, according to Ynet.
Sinkholes are areas of soil that lack natural external surface drainage, according to the United States Geological Survey. Rooms and caverns can be formed underground when rocks beneath the land surface, such as limestone, carbonate rocks, or salt layers, dissolve. One of the reasons sinkholes can be so dramatic, according to the USGS, is that a sudden collapse of the land surface can occur at any time.
In the United States, most damage from sinkholes occurs in states such as Florida, Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, according to the USGS. Just this week, video captured a New York City van crashing into a sinkhole in the Bronx.
Sinkholes are also an issue in Israel. Ittai Gavrieli, a senior researcher at the Israel Geological Institute, told Agence France-Presse last year that there are thousands of sinkholes in and around Israel, including on the shores of the Dead Sea.
According to the Times of Israel, around 50 people were at the house party on Thursday. A guest told Keshet 12 that it all happened so quickly and it was not 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 in,” she said.
Aviv Bublil, the lifeguard who worked at the pool party, told Ynet how “the bottom just fell.”
“I saw two people… two people were missing,” Bublil said.
The 34-year-old man who climbed out of the sinkhole suffered minor injuries to his head and legs, Magen David Adom paramedic Uri Damari told the Jerusalem Post.
Photos shared by authorities show the huge sinkhole ripping through the middle of the pool.
On social media, friends flood Kimhi’s Facebook page with memories.
“May his memory be a blessing,” Israel Hayom newspaper wrote on its Facebook account.
At the hearing on Friday, Amir, the lawyer for the homeowners with the pool, stressed that the fatal sinkhole incident was “a terrible tragedy” that was “no less unusual than a lightning strike”.
“This kind of thing happens once in a hundred years,” Amir said, according to Ynet. “And unfortunately it happened.”