Flooded water running through a valley in the Judean desert following heavy rainfall in the mountains on April 25, 2018. .
(photo credit: MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)
The writing was on the wall.
The warning signs were there, but despite the forecast for heavy rain over Thursday and voiced concerns from students, the hike along the Tzafit stream for those who were to enroll in the Bnei Zion Pre-Military Academy went ahead as planned.
“I can’t believe that I’m actually going out on a trip in this weather. It’s not logical that we should go to a place that is completely flooded. It’s tempting fate. We are going to die, I am serious,” wrote one of the teenaged victims the day before the trip, according to Channel 2 News.
The news outlet obtained screenshots of text messages sent between students a day ahead of the trip, questioning why the school was sending them out in such conditions.
“It’s really weird that they [are going to take] you out like this, I’m sorry,” wrote another.
Kan radio reported that it had obtained a WhatsApp message sent to the participants of the “bonding trip,” who were told that the hike would be “fun and wet and an experience.”
According to the message they were told to bring “a rain coat,” “a rain cover for your bags” and “a change of dry clothes in case you need it.”
The message added: “Don’t worry... We are well-equipped for the hike and the academy has checked with the relevant authorities.”
It is believed that the group had enrolled in Bnei Zion and was set to begin the year-long program in the coming months. The hike was allegedly organized by current students.
For the police, ZAKA rescue and recovery organization, IDF and Magen David Adom responders, it was one of the hardest, most chaotic scenes they had attended in some time, as the nine dead teenagers
were pulled from the water.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post
from the scene, a first responder who identified himself as Yehudah said that throughout his time with ZAKA, “I can’t recall another incident like this happening.”
“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to see and deal with – the most intense,” he said.
Clearly emotional, Yehuda said: “There is no easy way to expand further on this – there is no way I can put this [what I saw and experienced] into words at this time.”
MDA paramedic Nir Yefet, who was at the point where the injured were evacuated, said: “I took the intensive care unit to a high place in the area. The helicopters of the IDF Unit 669 [the IAF’s Airborne Rescue and Evacuation unit] began to evacuate the seriously injured after they had been rescued from the river. It was a very hard thing to see.
“We performed a preliminary screening on the injured who came to us – they were unconscious, without a pulse and not breathing. They had suffered bruises and showed signs of drowning. With the help of the IDF medical force, we performed medical tests, and after a short time we were forced to declare the death of a young man and a young woman, whom we had hoped to rescue. The victims who reached us showed no signs of life and we could do nothing but declare them dead,” Yefet said.
Speaking from the scene, ZAKA chief officer Mati Goldstein said responders had been trying for hours “to save those who could be saved and give respect to those who could not.
“It’s been a very, very complicated day... We want to remind everyone to please make sure to have the right equipment and to know what you are doing before going out on a hike... If there’s a storm, don’t do it.”Tamara Zieve contributed to this report.
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