RIYADH: A trial is underway for 14 people over a deadly crane incident in Saudi Arabia that killed more than 100 people at Islam’s holiest site, local media reported Thursday.
They are accused of “negligence leading to death, damaging public property and ignoring safety guidelines” at the site of the crane collapse in September 2015, according to the Okaz and Saudi Gazette newspapers.
The defendants include at least one Saudi “billionaire” and nationals from Pakistan, The Philippines, Canada, and several Arab countries, the papers said.
The tragedy at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi city of Makkah killed at least 108 people and injured about 400, including foreigners who had arrived ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage which began later that month.
During severe winds a construction crane toppled into a courtyard of the Grand Mosque. It was one of several cranes the Saudi Binladin Group had employed as part of a multi-billion-dollar expansion to accommodate increasing numbers of faithful.
Saudi King Salman sanctioned the Binladin Group after he reviewed an investigative committee’s findings that the firm was “in part responsible” for the crane collapse.
The accused denied the charges against them, insisting the crane collapse was caused by inclement weather.
The criminal court in Jeddah, where the trial began Wednesday, ordered a new session for next month to allow the defence to respond.
Last year’s Hajj was hit by a second tragedy a week after the crane incident, when around 2,300 foreign pilgrims were killed during a stampede.