BEIRUT: Injured victims, scattered blazes and mangled skeletons of cars are some of the devastating images firefighter Khaled Toubaili has seared in his memory from the site of the blast that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon listened for the second day to the first responder’s testimony, quizzing him on minutiae of the tragic scene, while another man who lost his brother in the explosion testified by video from Beirut.
Toubaili said that as he approached the site, he could grasp the magnitude of the attack.
“When I passed by the Four Seasons and saw what I saw from afar I immediately called for support,” he recalled. “I called the operations room with my handheld radio and I asked them to send every available firefighter ... Everyone arrived within 10 minutes.”
Some 70 to 80 firefighters worked for two to three hours to extinguish the fires caused by the massive deadly blast on Feb. 14. It took hours longer to cool down the smoldering wreckage.
Answering questions from members of the court, Toubaili said he paid no attention to the site’s large bomb crater: “I was only interested at the time in the fire and the injured people. The crater did not include any cars on fire or injured people.”
The prosecution says the crater was caused by an explosives-laden vehicle, while the defense has posited that the hole in the ground shows the explosion was caused by a bomb placed underground.
The court then heard a live video testimony from Witness 427, whose identity has being shielded from the public for security reasons, stating that his brother died from injuries sustained during the blast.
On the morning of Feb. 14, Witness 427 said he had dropped off his daughter at his parents’ house. “My brother was there. I saw him and we had a chat together,” he recalled.
Hours later, after news of the bomb broke on TV, a client told him he should go to the American University Hospital.
“When I arrived at the hospital, my father and my mother were already there, in addition to all my sisters and brothers,” he said. Witness 427 said his brother, aged 26 or 27, had two operations but died around 11 p.m. that evening.
“We were deeply affected and devastated by this loss because my brother was extremely generous,” said the witness, his face blurred on the television screen.
“From his death up until now my mother’s heath has deteriorated. She has suffered a lot ... she was very attached to him, to all my brothers, but to him especially as he was very affectionate to her, very close to her.”
Meanwhile, the trial chamber judges have scheduled a hearing for Feb. 11 to determine whether Hassan Habib Mehri’s case should be combined with the existing one.
Sources have told The Daily Star that if the cases are combined, the court could adjourn for three to four months.