(photo credit: MAGEN DAVID ADOM JERUSALEM)
The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected appeals against an eight-year jail term for driver Edward Gelfand for a 2008 accident in which 24 Russian travel agents were killed when a tour bus drove off a cliff on the way to Eilat.
Gelfand had appealed the sentence decided in 2014 by Beersheba District Court as too harsh, while the state challenged it as too lenient. The court had also revoked Gelfand’s license.
The December 2008 accident in which the bus drove off a 54 meter high cliff, was a result of Gelfand illegally and dangerously trying to pass other vehicles on Route 12, at 98 km. per hour despite an 80-km. per hour speed limit, a recommended speed of 50-km. and numerous signs warning of dangerous curves.
Fifteen other people were seriously injured and another 13 were lightly injured.
Gelfand, 44, from Petah Tikva, was a veteran driver. The Beersheba court said he “knew the significance of his actions” and their potential for danger.
It rejected Gelfand’s statements that he had only been driving at 70 km. per hour and that he had lost control of the bus due to road conditions. It also rejected excuses that the vehicle he was trying to pass had closed him off, that an object from the other vehicle had hit the bus or in some way forced him off the cliff.
The court concluded that in trying to overtake on a dangerous winding road with a 20-ton bus, all of he fault was his and also convicting him of the lesser crime of causing serious bodily harm.
The manslaughter charge for which he was convicted carries a maximum 20-year prison term.