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(photo credit: Courtesy of Hatzala)
Police are investigating whether alcohol or drugs were involved in a deadly crash overnight Wednesday that eyewitnesses described as resembling a terror attack more than a traffic accident. Six people were killed in the crash, which investigators suspect occurred after a young driver sped through a red light and slammed into a second vehicle.
"This was a terror attack in which the 'suicide bomber' stayed alive. I have no other, gentler, terms to use. This was senseless murder that could have been prevented and six human lives could have been spared. Simply murder," said Dr. Yossi Barzel, a Hatzolah volunteer who arrived at the scene.
Magen David Adom paramedics who were at the Ginaton Junction near Lod witnessed the crash. Paramedic Shmuel Bachar of MDA's Ayalon Station said that paramedics had noticed a vehicle traveling well over the speed limit on the empty roadway.
"Instinctively, I stopped the ambulance at the side of the road, following the Mazda with my eyes, and prepared to hear the characteristic screeching of the brakes before an accident... I heard a terrible boom. Both vehicles were [flung] dozens of meters," said Bachar, also adding that "the site looked like a terror attack."
All five people in the second car were killed. Egged employees Moshe Ben-Gigi, 44; Michael Kashpur, 28; David Yona, 51; Aharon Ben-Nisho, 55, all from Ashkelon, and Yitzhak Cohen, 42, from Ashdod, were making their return commute from Elad to Ashkelon when the Mazda slammed into the Hyundai that Egged had rented for them.
All but Cohen were married, and a total of seven children were left fatherless following the crash. Four of the men were laid to rest on Thursday afternoon at an Ashkelon cemetery.
Police believe that the speeding vehicle's driver, Yaron Bracha, 27, could have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Bracha was hospitalized in moderate condition at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center following the crash, but his twin brother Eyal, who was in the passenger's seat, was killed.
Sgt.-Mjr. Yoash Zamir, a veteran collision investigator with the Israel Police, was one of the police at the scene. "All of the conditions were good. The junction was well-lit, weather wasn't a problem, a traffic light was placed at the junction. What could be safer?" Zamir said. "Once again, all we are left with is the 'human factor.'"
According to Zamir, there were no brake marks on the pavement, indicating that neither vehicle had attempted to stop. The wreckage, he said, indicated that at least one of the vehicles involved in the collision was traveling at "a very high speed."
Zamir said that police took blood and urine samples from Bracha, the driver. "There is [reason] to believe that the driver of the Mazda came into the intersection while the light was red."
Police are currently searching for additional witnesses to the crash, and Zamir said that they would interview the only survivor - Bracha - as soon as his medical condition permitted. They will also calculate the relative speeds of the vehicles.
"I have seen many things in the past 30 years, but this is once of the worst I have seen," Zamir explained. "If our drivers would be a bit more careful, and respect the stoplights and signs, we will gain many things - first and foremost, fewer bereaved families."
Also, investigators found a cell phone left in the wreckage of the Mazda, and said that they discovered a text message sent shortly before the crash that read "I'm highâ€¦ what about you?" Police said that they were still uncertain whether the message had been sent by Yaron or Eyal.
The twins' parents, Barzel said, "are the most pitiable parents in the country today," he said. "They are very unfortunate. On one hand, they had a son who was killed, and on the other hand, another son who is allegedly a murderer. And you must remember that their son was also seriously injured."
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