A bus crash outside the West Bank settlement of Beit Horon claimed the lives of two women in their twenties and injured more than 40 others when a bus belonging to the Kavim bus company struck a private van and flipped over on Sunday morning.
The two women, Rachel Gutman, 29, and Ruchama Rosen, 27, were identified as the two casualties of the accident. Gutman was the mother of a one-year-old boy.
The accident occurred when the bus hit a private van that had stopped on the left-side shoulder of the highway to assist another vehicle in an unrelated accident, the police said in a statement after an initial investigation. The unrelated, light, accident occurred on the other side of the road, with traffic flowing in the opposite direction of the bus. After the bus hit the car, the police said, it swerved across the highway, flipped on its side, skidded along the guard rail and came to a stop with the rail embedded in its side.
Police said that the accident was avoidable, had the driver of the van stopped on the right-side shoulder.
Kavim bus No. 304, which was traveling eastbound on Route 443 from the city of Modi’in Illit, flipped on its side and was punctured by the highway’s guard rail, with its windshield blown out in the accident. Helicopters, fire and rescue services, and army personnel were all dispatched to the scene, needing a crane to lift the bus back on its wheels to tow it away.
Passengers and paramedics described the traumatic scene.
“It all happened so fast,” one passenger, Noah Alfinbin recalled to Walla! News. “In ten seconds we were overturned and suddenly we were all on the floor. I tried to help as much as I could after I exited [the vehicle]. I saw children and babies [everywhere].
Shlomo Gottlieb, a ZAKA volunteer from the Modi’in unit, said that the scene reminded him of a war zone.
“I arrived at the scene within just a few minutes,” he said. “It was like a battlefield. There were injured passengers throughout the entire bus.”
A photo posted on social media showed a rescue worker carrying an infant from the scene, a meter away from the overturned vehicle.
“I saw a woman in her 30s with a facial injury holding a baby and three little girls,” MDA paramedic Kobi Goldstein explained. “I took the baby, who was injured in the head, and calmed the group down, put the girls in one of our ambulances while giving them first aid,” he recalled.
Magen David Adom medic Uriel Goldberg was one of the first to respond after he heard a “tremendous noise.”
“I was treating a minor accident on Route 443 at the [Modi’in-]Maccabim junction when suddenly I heard a very tremendous noise from the opposite lane and saw the bus turn upside down,” he said. “We were able to extract the dozens of passengers who were on the bus, along with help from other MDA teams who arrived quickly at the site.”
Of the 41 people injured, four were in serious condition, two were moderately wounded and 35 were lightly injured, Channel 12 said. Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem said that it received two patients in severe condition and 14 in minor condition, including a family of six — two parents and four daughters — among them an 11-month-old baby.
The bus driver and the driver of the private vehicle will be questioned under warnings of negligence as potential suspects of the incident, the police said.
“Unfortunately, this morning at 09:15, Kavim line 304, which runs from Modi’in Illit to Jerusalem via Route 443, was involved in a serious road accident near Beit Horon,” the bus company said in a statement. Kavim said that it worked “in full cooperation” with rescue personnel and paramedics and conducted an initial investigation, which it will pass on to the “relevant authorities.”
“We are all praying for the health of the injured,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked before the weekly cabinet meeting.
“Due to the nature of the incident, the organization is also dispatching members of its Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit to the scene to help treat individuals suffering emotional or psychological stress,” United Hatzalah said in a statement issued after receiving reports of the crash.
Yisrael Ganon, chairman of the Bus Drivers Association in Israel, called on the Transportation Ministry to “immediately promote the driver training program initiated by the Association of Bus Drivers in Israel in order to prevent such serious accidents in the future.”
“Our hearts are with the families of those killed and injured in the wake of the serious accident,” he said. Kavim said that it hopes for the “speedy recovery” of the injured.
The highway was closed to traffic in both directions for several hours.
Gutman and Rosen were buried late on Sunday night.
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