A family of eight from Psagot, including six children, died in an inferno Tuesday afternoon, as they were trapped inside their burning car following a head-on collision on Route 90 near Ein Bokek.
“I killed them; I will not drive again in my life,” the driver of the second vehicle told police, according to media reports. The driver was arrested on manslaughter charges.
A couple and their 12-year-old child in the second vehicle were injured and evacuated to Beersheba’s Soroka-University Medical Center.
All eight members of the nuclear Atar family were killed in the Dead Sea accident. This included the parents Yariv, 45 and Shoshi, 47, as well as their six children; Yaakov Israel, 12, Ateret, 11, Ayala, nine, Moria, seven, Yedid, five, and Avigail, three.
Yariv worked at a computer company and Shoshi was a special education teacher at Keren Or in Jerusalem. The couple moved to Psagot 13 years ago, shortly after their wedding. The oldest son went to high school in Beit El and the remainder of the children were in schools in Psagot.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his “heart is torn as an entire family has been wiped out.”
“My wife, Sara, and I grieve with all the citizens of Israel for the lives that were lost,” he wrote on Twitter. “Today, when many Israeli citizens take advantage of the [municipal election day] sabbatical for day trips, I ask you to do everything in order to return home safely.”
Other public figures said they were pained by the accident, beseeching Israelis to exercise caution as they returned home from their holiday.
“An entire family was wiped out today in a terrible disaster,” Yuli Edelstein (Likud), speaker of the Knesset, said in a statement.
“The future of six children was abruptly cut off. I send a warm hug to my friends, residents of Psagot and to the family members who lost their children and grandchildren in the great disaster. Citizens of Israel, especially those who took advantage of the day for a short trip: travel slowly and safely and return home safely,” his statement read.
“The heart refuses to believe,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) wrote on Twitter. “A major disaster befell the State of Israel and in Psagot. An entire family perished in a cruel accident. ‘And your brethren, the whole house of Israel, shall mourn the fire.’ May they rest in peace,” she wrote, referencing Leviticus 10, in which the High Priest Aaron’s sons were killed by a fire sent from heaven for their sins.
“We are in the middle of an important election campaign in Jerusalem, but we can not help but be shocked by the terrible disaster that took place in a car accident near the Dead Sea and took away a whole family from Psagot,” Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), amid his election bid for Jerusalem mayor, wrote on Twitter. “I join in the sorrow of the family and wish speedy recovery to the injured!”
“The heart breaks, to think that an entire family existed and in one moment no longer is there,” Zehava Gal-On, former Meretz party leader, wrote on Twitter.
One member of Knesset said it was time to take action to prevent any further accidents.
“That road has been a danger for many years,” said MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Union). “At the end of the day, we must figure out how to prevent these accidents. We must install a barrier on the road, at least in part, and I intend to approach the Transportation Minister in order to promote such a plan as soon as possible.”
At the scene of the collision, local authorities said the site was “shocking,” and that it was difficult to determine the total number of casualties.
Shlomo Landau, who heads the ZAKA unit responsible for the Dead Sea, told public broadcaster KAN that “it [was] hard to count the bodies in the back [of the vehicle]. It’s a sight that [reminds me of] terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, with the smell and everything.”
“This is a shocking accident. When we arrived at the site, we noticed two vehicles on the road, one of which was set on fire and full of passengers,” said Magen David Adom senior paramedic Sarah Israeli and MDA paramedic Amiram Mualem. “A 52-year-old woman and a 12-year-old girl were moderately injured; after initial treatment, we brought them to an MDA helicopter that landed nearby and evacuated them to Soroka Medical Center suffering from injuries to the head and limbs.”
Assaf Levy, a firefighter from the Negev region, told Army Radio: “This is one of the most serious accidents I have seen during my service. When we arrived, the vehicle was a fireball. As soon as we began to control the flames, the disaster began to unfold. I hope that there will be no more death.”
Two weeks ago, a couple and their baby were killed in an accident
with a bus in the same area of the Dead Sea.
“On the road where eight people are killed in one day and 11 in less than a month, we no longer ask whether this is a bloody road; the harsh consequences speak for themselves,” said Nahmias-Verbin.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
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