5 killed, 16 injured in 2 road accidents

Truck hits 2 minibuses taking Palestinians to work in central Israel; biker crashes on coastal highway.

car crash 224.88 (photo credit: )
car crash 224.88
(photo credit: )
After police and road safety groups alike marked the close of a year with record lows in traffic fatalities, 2008 began with a less-than-promising start as five people were killed in two crashes during the Tuesday morning rush hour. Four people were killed and 16 others were injured Tuesday morning when a truck collided head-on with two minibuses on Route 444 near Elad. Police believe that the crash occurred when a semitrailer swerved from its lane and smashed into oncoming traffic. The truck slammed into two minibuses, which were taking Palestinian workers to their workplaces in Israel. One of the minibuses overturned after the collision. Eyewitnesses said that some of the passengers were immediately thrown out of the vehicles by the force of the collision, while others remained entangled in the wreckage for over an hour after the crash. Route 444 was completely closed to traffic as rescuers worked to retrieve the bodies of those who had been traveling in the smashed minibuses. The driver of the truck escaped the crash uninjured, and was detained for questioning by police. According to investigators, the driver said that he had lost control due to a flat tire. Nevertheless, eyebrows were raised when it became clear that the 25-year-old had already managed to accumulate 18 prior traffic offenses before the fatal crash. Police said that it was hard to determine the cause of the collision from a perfunctory examination of the scene, as the level of damage to the two minibuses was so complete. But later in the evening, investigators said that they were examining the possibility that the truck driver had swerved out of his lane after falling asleep at the wheel. When questioned, the Hod Hasharon resident reportedly told investigators that he had felt tired prior to the crash. The driver, who is currently viewed by police as a criminal suspect, was released on restrictive terms and only after he posted bail. Less than a week ago, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said that in the coming year, he hoped to see a new policy through which the licenses of recidivistic traffic offenders would be revoked after drivers reach a certain number of "points." In those circumstances, Mofaz said, the repeat offenders - such as the truck driver in Tuesday's crash - would be required to repeat both their written and on-road driving tests in order to receive their license again. Shortly after that collision, 20-year-old motorcyclist Yaron Stoff was killed in a road accident on the coastal highway, near Kibbutz Shefayim. Police said that from their initial inquiry it appeared that the man lost control of his bike, overturned, and died on the shoulders of the highway.