Dad dies clutching son in fall from Negev cliff

A Hebrew University professor died in a hiking accident Friday. His young son was critically injured.

Dr. Omri Nir, an Israeli researcher, died on Friday afternoon in a tragic hiking accident.

Nir’s 10-year-old son, Ilai, fell while descending a desert mountain during the hike. His father was able to catch him and then held him as they fell together from a cliff in the Negev desert. Ilai, who suffered head and back injuries in the fall, is fighting for his life in an intensive care unit at Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva.

The two were part of a group hike for families from the northern community of Kfar Vitkin.

Udi Segal, who participated in the hike, said, “I and another parent went down first and made sure that all the children were coming down. One of the kids was nervous about the descent on the rungs, and we were helping him. Then I heard a thud and saw a boy falling on his father. The father managed to hold him and the two rolled towards the cliff (and fell off). Another father held his son the whole time and another father managed to grab onto the cliff,” Ynet reported.

Nir held his son to his body as they fell so that he would absorb the impact instead of his son. Although he succeeded in taking the brunt of the fall, Itai was left only semi-conscious and a medic who participated in the hike called for a rescue unit, which was hampered by the fact that even slight movements in the area where Ilai landed could lead to a landslide. He was eventually evacuated by helicopter.

The other children on the hike were traumatized by the accident and also by the fact that many of them were separated from their fathers at the time and weren’t sure if their own father had fallen off the cliff. The families back home were also left in confusion as the news of the accident went out on the media before officials arrived in the community to inform Dr. Nir’s widow and other two children of the tragedy.

Dr. Omri was a professor at Hebrew University, where his work was focused on the conflict between different denominations of Islam. The Kfar Vitkin community is mourning his loss and praying for Ilai’s recovery.

By: Eli Stein, World Israel News
With files from Ynet News