‘I lost my father’: Deadly Beersheba hospital blaze sparked by cigarette

One dead, 25 injured in overnight fire at Beersheba hospital; cause under investigation, though hospital official says a lit cigarette near oxygen tank is probably the source of the blaze.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

A patient at Soroka Medical Cener in Beersheba was found dead on Wednesday morning and dozens more were injured, after a massive blaze which officials believe was sparked by a lit cigarette.

The fire occurred in an internal medicine ward in the hospital, where the majority of patients are intubated or bedbound. Twenty-five people, including patients and staff, were treated for smoke inhalation.

“This is a complex incident,” said Dr. Shlomi Kodesh, Director General of Soroka Medical Center, in a statement.

“One of the patients left to smoke outside, which likely caused a reaction between an ember and an oxygen tank, starting the fire.”

Kodesh said that firefighters and the hospital are currently investigating the incident.

Eyewitnesses described a chaotic scene at the time of the blaze, which occurred around 3:30 a.m.

“I was sleeping and suddenly I heard the fire alarm ringing and ringing,” Lily Moyal, a patient in a nearby ward, told Ynet.

“It was wailing for five minutes and didn’t stop. I saw everyone running towards the door and shouting. I opened the door and saw the hallway was full of smoke, everyone started running, there was hysteria.”

Alex Gelfer, who was visiting his hospitalized mother at the time of the fire, said that a man had emerged from the ward and told a nurse that he was having difficulty breathing.

Gelfer said the nurse had said she would check on him shortly. “About 20 seconds later,” he told Ynet, “there was screaming and the man was on fire.”

A similar incident occurred in May 2022. Two patients at Sheba Medical Center in central Israel died from severe burns after one of the men lit a cigarette while he was connected to an oxygen tank.

The family of the man whose roommate caused the fire said that they intend to sue the hospital for negligence, citing the lack of emergency fire systems in place in the room.

“There are no fire extinguishing systems in the hospital like sprinklers and smoke detectors,” the victim’s son wrote on Facebook. “Because of this irresponsible fire, I lost my father.”