BEIRUT: Two Internal Security Forces members were detained for allegedly failing to respond to an emergency call made by a Czech tourist who was found dead earlier this week, a security source told The Daily Star Thursday.
An investigation by police revealed that Czech national Thomas Rezika, 46, who went missing last Wednesday, made a call to the 112 emergency dispatch unit asking for help, but his pleas allegedly went unheeded.
Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel confirmed to The Daily Star that telecommunications data indicated Rezika contacted the emergency unit and that the dispatcher had answered the call.
“We’re still investigating the incident and the concerned agencies will hold [the responsible individual] accountable,” Charbel said.
“I think the man probably spoke in Czech or in English and the dispatcher did not understand him ... but that doesn’t mean they were not obligated to respond to his call,” he added.
The ISF members believed to be involved are being interrogated.
If found guilty, the two men could be charged with negligence leading to loss of life and violating police orders, the source said, adding that the pair could also be expelled from the force.
It was not clear which dispatch unit received the call in north Lebanon given that such calls are often manually or automatically transferred to other units because of poor reception.
Rezika’s body was found on a rugged trail in the Qadisha Valley, north Lebanon.
A copy of the autopsy report will be delivered to the Czech Embassy in Beirut and Lebanese authorities.
The search for Rezika began last week after authorities tracked text messages he sent to Bou Khass Hotel in Bsharri where he was staying. Caretaker Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui had the messages traced.
Rezika’s fall into a ravine was likely due to poor visibility due to thick fog. The ravine lies to the east of the Saint Thomas historical shrine in the region of Hashta, between the Hasroun and Hadsheet villages.
Charbel also noted that Rezika sent a text message with “help me” to the hotel’s owner but the latter only saw the message in the morning.
The autopsy report revealed that the tourist fell and broke his neck which proved to be a fatal injury and “he probably sought help following his fall,” the minister said.