Boy, 6, killed, four hurt in road accident in J’lem

Local parents: We asked city officials for safety measures on Rehov Hanevi’im, and they did the least they possibly could.

A six-year-old boy was killed and four others were injured in a traffic accident on Rehov Hanevi’im in downtown Jerusalem on Thursday morning.
The road has borne the brunt of the traffic though the center of the city since construction began on the light rail on Jaffa Road, which runs parallel to the street. Parents of students at the Lycee Francais de Jerusalem, where the victim attended school, said that they had repeatedly warned the municipality that a disaster was just waiting to happen.
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The accident occurred on Thursday morning when a woman turned left to find parking and hit an oncoming vehicle. The impact deployed the airbags of the oncoming car, causing the driver to lose control and drive onto the sidewalk, hitting four pedestrians – including Farid Abu Katish, age six; his sister, five; and their father.
When the first driver tried to get back onto her side of the road, she hit another car, injuring the driver and a passenger lightly.
Both Katish and his sister were unconscious when Magen David Adom evacuated them to Shaare Zedek Hospital and later Hadassah-University Medical Center, Ein Kerem. Katish sustained a severe head injury to which he later succumbed.
His sister, who was severely injured in the stomach, remains in intensive care.
Katish’s father was hospitalized with light injuries.
The driver, reported to be an employee of the French Consulate in Jerusalem, was released on NIS 10,000 bail and gave up her two passports and international driver’s license. Parents at the French school did not know if she was a parent of a student at the Lycee.
“We sent them umpteen letters, and they made some token gestures,” said Nicolas Pelham, whose son attends the French school and was hit by a car on the same road nine months ago, though he was not injured. We warned them that it’s becoming more lethal and kids are in daily danger,” he said.
Rehov Hanevi’im has five schools, Pelham explained, and the sidewalks are so narrow they don’t even have room for two people to walk side by side. At the French school alone, there are 270 students, meaning the area sees heavy pedestrian traffic.
Over a year ago, the parents requested traffic-calming measures such as additional speed bumps, wider sidewalks, and more barriers between the road and the sidewalks, but they said their requests had been repeatedly ignored. The city finally painted an additional crosswalk near the French school, but the parents said it had begun to fade the next day and was now completely gone.
“We asked and asked them to take the measures, and they did the least that they possibly could,” said Pelham, a member of the school’s management committee, which is made up of parents.
He said that a raised crosswalk could have prevented Thursday’s tragedy by forcing cars to slow down.
“People are in shock and in mourning for the kid, and they’re also really concerned for when the next kid gets killed,” said Pelham. “They want action now. It’s completely insufficient to say that we should wait until they’re finished [with construction], until the first tram is up and running, and they knew this.”
The management committee had been in touch with Naomi Tsur, the deputy mayor for planning and environment, who had promised the parents to fix the road after the tram was completed.
Tsur was abroad on Thursday and could not be reached for comment.
“Rehov Hanevi’im has been one of the victims of the light rail,” she told The Jerusalem Post in an earlier interview.
A municipality spokeswoman expressed regret for the accident, but noted that any changes to the street were difficult because of the street’s layout.
“Rehov Hanevi’im is an old and historic street, with built-up areas on both sides for its entire length,” the spokeswoman said.
The parents are planning a demonstration outside the school on Monday morning to draw attention to the dangerous road conditions. They say that in the past two years, more than 20 bus lines have changed their routes from Jaffa Road to Rehov Hanevi’im because of the construction.
The French Consulate is also sending grief counselors for a school-wide day of mourning on Friday.
“There’s a real sense of anger,” said Pelham. “But it isn’t just anger, it’s a real fear of what’s going to happen. If they had done the traffic-calming measures, the child would have still been alive.”