A 4-year old girl and her 1-year-old little sister died Wednesday, and two of their siblings are in critical condition after being exposed to pesticides in their Jerusalem home.
The girls, Avigail and Yael Gross, died from the poisoning on Wednesday morning and doctors are fighting for the lives of their brothers Yitzhak,5, and Michael, 7. At no stage during the siblings' hospitalization did their parents mention that their apartment was fumigated three days earlier, but rather said that their children suffered from gastric trouble due to cheese and eggs they consumed.
- Jerusalem: Parents, son killed in gas explosion
- Negev: 6-year-old girl killed by tractor
- Aroma cook suspected of poisoning fellow employee
The two brothers are hooked up to ECMO machines after their hearts stopped beating. Dr. Ofer Merin, head of Trauma at Shaarei Zedek hospital, said: "This is a powerful poison that damaged all of their systems and we are now fighting for their lives. We can see the deterioration ordered by the children's ages; the little girls died and now we are trying to save the 5-year-old, who lost his pulse a few hours ago. The 7-year-old is also connected to a respirator. We received information from the toxins center in Haifa that there is no medicine for this toxin that harms all of the body's organs."
Shlomo Grez, the principle of the religious school where two of the children study, spoke with the father, who was also rushed to the hospital along with the mother. The father told the principle that the family spent four hours Monday at a neighborhood clinic, where they were told to take paracetamol and purchase anti-nausea medicine. "No one ever thought it was poisoning," he added.
It was reported that the apartment was fumigated Monday, and a container with poison was intentionally left in one of the apartment's rooms in order to continue the pesticide spray's effect. The room was sealed with duct tape, which is also how police officers found it. The exterminator was detaibed, and told during questioning that he was supposed to clear the container from the apartment on Friday. It is not yet clear what instructions the family was given regarding their stay in the apartment, and it is being examined whether the pesticide is permitted for use in Israel. Fire forces and hazardous materials removal workers evacuated the residents from the building. A Yeshiva school nearby was also evacuated. The street is closed for traffic and residents were asked to stay in their homes.
Police Commander Haim Blumenfeld, head of the Moriya police station in Jerusalem, said: "During his questioning, the exterminator said that the room had been sealed, and the family apparently continued to stay in the apartment," said
Blumenfeld said that the exterminator is cooperating with investigators and visited the hospital to tell the medical staff everything he knows about the toxin.
Moshe Ohana, deputy commander of the Jerusalem District, added that "the firefighters identified an active, highly concentrated substance, and worked to neutralize it. This is a powder that releases gas and is supposed to hurt pests. Our detectors indicated a very high concentration of the substance in the air."
Fireman officer Shlomo Schneider, chief operations officer for Jerusalem and Hazardous Materials Officer for the Israel fire and rescue services said that "from our knowledge, this is a substance that should not be used for pest control in households, and it is certain that the family should not have stayed at home after such a substance was in use."
The exterminator's son commented on his father's investigation: "He is considered one of the most professional, leading exterminators in the Jerusalem area. He has a license and knows the field, of course. This isn't his first or second workday, but a job that he has been doing for decades, hundreds of thousands of times. He is very experienced and works with many institutions."
A relative from the extended family injured by the fumigation told Ynet: "It's hard to talk. This is a lovely family, wonderful girls, flowers. The parents are a pair of amazing people. This is a quiet, good and gentle family. The entire family is in shock and traumatized, we can't wrap our heads around this matter.
Omri Efraim, Michal Margalit, Itay Blumenthal and Yaron Kelner contributed to this report