PETALING JAYA: A court in Saudi Arabia has ruled that the crane tragedy at the Grand Mosque in Mecca two years ago was caused by natural disaster, and said the company involved need not pay compensation to victims, the Saudi Gazette reported.
The court ruled in favour of the BinLaden Group and acquitted all 13 of the company’s employees in charge of operating the giant crane.
Aside from the 108 fatalities, 238 people were injured when the crane fell on the eastern wall of the Grand Mosque on Sept 11, 2015 during the haj season. Seven of the dead were Malaysian pilgrims.
Following the incident, Saudi ruler, King Salman Abdulaziz ordered that all victims be paid compensation of 1 million Saudi riyals (RM1.13 million) for families of the dead, and half the amount for those seriously injured.
It is understood that the court case is separate from the royal order.
However, none of the families of the seven Malaysian pilgrims had received any compensation from the Saudi government.
In March this year, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki confirmed that compensation payment for victims in the tragedy had not been paid.
“Compensation payment to the victims is the absolute right of the Saudi Arabian government,” he said.
In its judgement, the court ruled that “the disaster was caused by natural reasons and there was no human element behind it”.
According to the Saudi Gazette, the judge in the case said the court took its decision after thoroughly reviewing technical, engineering, mechanical and geophysical reports in addition to carefully studying the reports of the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment that said it was the heavy rains and thunderous storms that caused the collapse of the crane.
“The crane was in an upright, correct and safe position. There was no error committed by the accused who took all the necessary safety precautions,” the judge was quoted as saying, adding that specialised international centre reports presented by the BinLaden Group in support of its defence were also taken into account.
“The attorney-general did not present any solid evidence that the BinLaden Group had violated safety rules. The evidence he had presented was not sufficient to incriminate the defendants.”
The Saudi daily reported that the attorney-general would appeal the ruling.