At least six people were killed and several more badly wounded when a bus smashed into a flatbed truck on Route 1 near Latrun, west of Jerusalem, yesterday.
An initial investigation established that the truck was parked on the narrow shoulder of the highway when the Egged No. 402 bus heading from the capital to Bnei Brak hit it. Police closed Route 1 going west, from the Latrun area to Tel Aviv, leading to serious gridlock.
The entire right side of the bus was gutted and shattered, damage that was apparently caused mainly by the crane positioned on the back of the trailer, which was carrying a large shipment of marble.
According to Magen David Adom paramedics, five people were killed and nine were injured, including one critically, one seriously, three moderately, and three lightly at the time of the accident around 6:30 p.m. The survivors were rushed to Assaf Harofeh and Sheba medical centers, where staff went on emergency footing. By 9 p.m., the number of dead had risen to six.
United Hatzalah volunteer Yehiel Miller said he found a boy and two small girls showing no signs of life and several adults unconscious outside the bus.
Roni Teitelbaum, a ZAKA rescue and recovery organization volunteer, said that when he arrived at the scene just after the accident “it was silent, like death. And then there was screaming. There were people crushed inside the bus and many that had been thrown outside of it as well.”
The truck driver is an Arab man who lives in the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem. His brothers told media that he pulled over to the shoulder of the highway because of an issue with his gear. He called his family and asked them to come to his assistance as he waited on the side of Route 1. He suffered light injuries and was detained by police.
Asst.-Ch. Yaron Be’eri, the head of the National Traffic Police, said that a special investigative team has been established to determine what exactly took place on Sunday evening, and that police would wait for its findings before discussing the crash in detail.
In the meantime, images of yet another devastating traffic accident led the nightly news.
In February of last year, eight women from the Beduin village of Hura were killed when their bus was hit by a tractor that was being towed by a bus that passed them on Route 31 in the Negev.
And just last Tuesday, four people were killed in a crash on Route 31.
In response to the 2014 crash, Transportation Minister Israel Katz instructed his ministry to work faster to take steps to prevent such tragedies.
Two weeks ago, Katz signed a directive to, by November 1, 2016, require all buses and trucks to be equipped with electronic systems that would keep track of the distance between vehicles on the road and help avoid collisions.
He said he will work with the Finance Ministry to provide incentives to drivers who install this before the deadline.
Katz said road conditions on Route 1 at the time of Sunday’s crash were not the issue. “What happened was a huge mistake,” he said, adding that one of the road safety devices would have prevented the collision.
On Wednesday, the ministry began holding a series of sessions at the Knesset, in an attempt to improve safety on the roads.
MK Eitan Cabel, chairman of the Knesset’s Economics Committee, said meanwhile that the accident shows the dire need to gather all possible resources, to “wage an uncompromising war against highway fatalities.”
He said he would be meeting with Israel Police officials and that his committee will put pressure on officials to immediately bring about ways to prevent roadway tragedies.