A mother and her three children died in a deadly collision with a commercial van and a bus carrying 40 passengers, most of them children and teens, on Highway 89 in the Galilee on Wednesday.
The four passengers of the private vehicle were a 35-year-old woman, her 15-and-12-year-old sons and five-year-old daughter.
The fifth fatality was a man who was trapped by the overturned bus and suffered multi-organ crush injuries.
The bus was carrying a group of children in the Bnei Akiva youth movement, 17 of whom are from the northern town of Mevo Dotan.
According to reports, the bus initially hit the van, and then hit the car. It then flipped over at least three times, finally landing on its side, as was seen in video footage circulating on social media.
Both the van and the car were crushed in the collision. The car passengers were trapped, unconscious, until Fire and Rescue Services teams managed to extricate them from the vehicle. Once they were evacuated from the car, Magen David Adom (MDA) paramedics were forced to declare all four family members dead.
In the overturned bus, most of the passengers were able to get out of the bus safely and suffered only light or moderate injuries, but the bus driver, 76-year-old Asher Basson from Kiryat Yam, died in the accident.
הלב נקרע לנוכח מראות התאונה הקשה בגליל העליון.אני מבקש לשלוח תנחומים מעומק הלב וחיבוק גדול למשפחות ההרוגים בשעתן הקשה.עם ישראל כולו מתפלל לרפואת הפצועים.אני מבקש מהציבור הישראלי להקפיד הקפדה יתרה על נסיעה זהירה בדרכים. שלא נדע עוד צער.— Naftali Bennett בנט (@naftalibennett) September 29, 2021
"The heart breaks in light of the images from the difficult crash in the Upper Galilee," tweeted Prime Minister Naftali Bennett Wednesday evening, after he landed back in Israel from his visit to the United States. “The people of Israel are praying for the recovery of the victims. I ask the Israeli public to exercise extra caution to drive safely and carefully.”
“My son is mostly scared,” a mother of one of the children on the bus told N12. “He sustained a few bumps from the flip. He is on the way to the hospital in Nahariya.”
The youth were returning home from a Sukkot trip with a Bnei Akiva group in Harish, a small town near the site of the accident. Most of the 35 children on the bus suffered light or moderate injuries.
“We felt that the bus accelerated for an unknown reason, and then we rolled over three or four times,” a Bnei Akiva counselor recounted.
“He said he was talking to a friend and suddenly there was a hard collision and he said the bus spun around and they fell,” the mother continued, relaying the dramatic moments of the crash. “Kids began crying and screaming. The bus was mostly children.”
Three Fire and Rescue teams from the Central Galilee District, along with three additional teams that were called in to help, extricated and evacuated the victims.
Additionally, Unit 669, the Israel Air Force’s search-and-rescue unit, and three helicopters staffed with IDF medical crews were called to the scene to assist in the evacuation, which went on for several hours.
The Galilee Medical Center of Nahariya announced a mass casualty protocol as it prepared for the arrival of the victims.
Police are investigating the circumstances of the accident, the cause of which is still unclear. According to initial assessments, the bus deviated from its lane and collided with the other two vehicles.
Police have also requested that residents avoid coming to the region and are directing cars away from the road, which remains blocked.
“I was horrified to hear of the deadly accident in the Upper Galilee. My heart is with the victims,” tweeted opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu. “My wife and I hug their families and pray for the health of the injured.”
שמעתי בזעזוע על תאונת הדרכים הקטלנית בגליל העליון. לבי עם הנפגעים בתאונה. רעייתי ואני מחבקים את משפחותיהם ומתפללים לשלום הפצועים.— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) September 29, 2021
Some 48 victims were evacuated to the hospitals in the North. A man in his 30s in serious condition was evacuated to Haifa’s Rambam Health Care Campus in an MDA helicopter, and two children – 11- and 13-years-olds – were evacuated by IDF helicopter.
תאונת האוטובוס בצפון: פצועים נחתו במסוק בבית החולים רמב"ם בחיפה(מיכל וסרמן, צילום: בי"ח רמב"ם) pic.twitter.com/BNpTDbqYce— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) September 29, 2021
Others were evacuated to the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, three of them in serious condition, as well as six with moderate injuries and the rest suffering light injuries. Several more reached Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, though they were all released Thursday barring a single 18-year-old in mild condition. A teen girl was later transferred to Rambam when her condition deteriorated.
Representatives of the Mevo Dotan Regional Council, home of several of the Bnei Akiva passengers, are in contact with the hospitals and emergency services and report that all parents of the children involved in the accident have been notified.
“The council is prepared to assist the families and provide the necessary support,” said Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council.
“I heard of the terrible accident in the North. I pray with all of the people of Israel for the recovery of the injured,” tweeted Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich, adding a prayer from the Book of Psalms.
שמעתי על התאונה הקשה בצפון. אני מתפלל יחד עם כל עם ישראל לרפואת הפצועים. pic.twitter.com/Ju4y5Apl7y— בצלאל סמוטריץ' (@bezalelsm) September 29, 2021
A hotline has been established for the public to receive information about the accident at 125-5161.