Funerals held across the country for fire victims

Forensics experts identify all 41 victims' bodies. Many were so badly burned that experts were using dental records and DNA to identify them.

December 4, 2010 13:34
4 minute read.
Mourners gather around the grave of Eran Weizel

Eran Weizel funeral 311 AP. (photo credit: Associated Press)

Forty-one people were killed in the giant blaze near the Carmel Mountains that started on Thursday. Thirty-six of the victims were prison guards on their way to Damon prison, and were killed when the fast-moving fire engulfed their bus in flames.

The guards on the bus were part of a new officer's course that started this year, which received specialized training in order to improve prisoner treatment and become directors in the prison system. The course started on October 17 of this year and was supposed to conclude next March. The students were expected to be the next generation of leaders in the prison services.

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Eight funerals were held on Friday afternoon. Cmdr. Eli Gabizon, head of the southern district prison guards and was in charge of 13 of the guards on the bus tried to attend as many funerals as possible on Friday. "We were like a family and they were all my children, it's really hard," Gabizon told Israel Radio . "But we will grow from this. It's a strong organization, and it will support us. But we've taken a huge blow today and it's so painful."

"The families ask hard questions. But they know this was their work, and we had to do it. Many times I went to a family to comfort them and it ended up that the families were comforting me," Gabizon added.

Family and friends remembered their loved ones as they tried to grapple with the senseless tragedy. "We couldn't have expected this, we're still trying to understand it and believe it," a family friend of Hagai Zolo, 28, from Kiryat Gat, told the media on Friday. "He always did the best for everyone," she added.

"We heard it on the news that there was a bus of guards that was on fire, and we called and called and called him, but he didn¹t answer," said the brother of Ronen Pereg, 34. Pereg was the father of two.

Hundreds gathered in Yavne on Friday to bid farewell to Maor Ganon, 27, another prison service officer.

Haim Furman, a friend of Ganon who was at the funeral described it as a send-off fitting a hero, with a 21-gun salute and representatives from the Prisons Service and Israeli rescue services coming to pay their respects.

Furman said friends and relatives described Ganon as "the rock of his family, the sibling who can always be counted on." Furman added that family described him as "ambitious, determined, and focused" and asked time and again, who will they count on now to do the things that Ganon could always be depended on to do.

His loved ones said it was his dream to serve his country as an officer of the Shabas.

Ganon leaves behind his wife, Sivan, and three-year-old daughter Hila.

On Saturday night, forensics experts had identified all of the 41 victims. Many of the victims were so badly burned that experts were using dental records and DNA to identify them. Forty of the bodies were held at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute while awaiting identification. Families of the victims were being hosted by families in the north.

Among the victims of the fire were Dep.-Cmdr. Yitzhak Melina, Police Brigadier-Gen. Lior Boker, 57, from Pardes Hana and Firefighter Uri Smandayev, from Migdal Haemek.

Prison services identified almost all of the victims on the bus: Rami Yisraeli from Beersheba, 33, married and father of two; Deputy Warden Dimitri Kozlov, 45 of Beersheba, married with a child; Vadislav Rahamimov, 30, of Beersheba; Vasim Abu-Ris, 32, married and father of two from Kfar Yirka; Topaz Even Hen Klein, 28, Rehovot; Beber Shabi, 35, from Kfar Jat, married and father of one; Kfir Ohana, 30, from Ofakim, married and father of one; Sium Tzagi, 31, from Netivot, married and father of three; Yakir Suisa, 26, from Dimona; Oshrat Pinto, 26, from Safed; Hagai Zolo, 28, from Kiryat Gat; A’adel Tafesh, from Beit Jean; Eran Weisel, 31, from Kiryat Bialik;  Yaron Barmani, 31, from Mevoiim, married and father of a 2-year-old girl, his wife is four months pregnant; Shimon Dayan, 28 from Carmiel, married; Dimitry Gershtein, 27, from Tel Aviv; Hagai Pinker, 31, from Yeruham; Tania Linsky, 23, from Ashkelon; Ayala Ifrach, 28, from Kiryat Bialik; Kerel Darman, 28, from Afula; Hen Kfir, 35, from Gan Yavne, married and father of three, Aviram Levy, 32, from Tiberias, married and father of one, Moris Levy, 32, from Tiberias; Hanen Ohayon, 31, from Nazaerth Ilit, married and father of two;. Iyas Sarhan, 30, from Kfar Marar, married and father of one; Inbal Amoyal, 26, from Dimona; Ayalia Langerman, 31, from Nahariya, married; Avi Noah, 34, from Jerusalem, married and father of two; Ronen Peretz, 34, from Ashkelon, married and father of two; Deputy Warden Rafi Alkalai, 44, from Lapid, married and father of five, was a unit commander in the officer’s course, Deputy Warden Fabiola Bohadna, 48, from Nes Ziona, mother of two, was a unit commander in the officer’s course; Warden Uriel Malka, 32, from Karnei Shomron; and David Navon, 48, from Nes Ziona, the driver of the bus.

Ben Hartman, Yaakov Lappin, and Staff contributed to this report.

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