18 August 2016
JEDDAH: The Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution (BIPP) has filed an independent lawsuit in the Grand Mosque crane case against a foreign resident who fled the Kingdom. The bureau has asked the fugitive to come back for questioning.
Investigators have ruled out criminal intent, weather conditions, including lightning as reasons for the collapse of the crane. There was no evidence that the crane collapsed due to the wear and tear of its parts, the investigators said.
As part of the bureau's investigation, testimonies of representatives of the Ministry of Finance; members of the technical committee at Umm Al-Qura University; officials of the General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection; project managers at the Grand Mosque and members of the Civil Defense were taken as all these bodies were involved in one way or another in Binladin Group's project.
The bureau investigated around 80 engineers and officials, examined over 10 reports from specialized bodies. Investigations covered all possible details, such as the angle of the arm of the crane, its ability to resist maximum wind speeds and its position at the time of falling.
A technical report showed that the crane was facing wind blowing at 80 kilometers per hour while it was positioned wrongly at an 85-degree angle.
According to the report, the crane's position contravened operating instructions, which stipulate that the main arm should be lowered when not in use or during strong winds.
The report also mentioned failure to comply with safety rules specified in the crane's operating booklet, limited experience of safety officials, weak communication about and follow up on the weather conditions, failure to measure the wind speed when the crane is not operational. The report also mentioned failure to act on a number of letters from pertinent authorities who were asking for an inspection of the heavy machinery, especially the crane that caused the accident.
A report on the crane submitted by the Ministry of Finance to BIPP corroborated media reports that it had stopped spending on the crane 10 months before it collapsed and had requested the Binladen Group to remove if from its location.
A Ministry of Finance engineer informed the bureau that the ministry had nothing to do with safety standards, which is the responsibility of other agencies.
Regarding the role of consultants at the project -- Konsas Company and Dar Al-Handasah
-- he said a contract was signed with Konsas Company through the Binladen Group but it was not approved by the ministry.
"Dar Al-Handasah's contract was approved and signed by the ministry to carry out only construction work, not monitor safety standards," the engineer said.
He said a letter was issued before the month of Ramadan 1436 AH to Binladen Group, requesting it to remove the crane to allow for more space for worshippers.
An official at the company promised to remove the crane within 15 days, but did not comply, he said.
According to the project director (an Egyptian national), the crane was not removed because, he claimed, the project was in need of the crane.
The engineer also indicated that there was no communication between the ministry and the PME or the Civil Defense regarding weather warnings.
© Arab News 2016