Bus driver charged with manslaughter

Edward Gelfond drove bus in fatal crash that killed 24 Russian tourists, injured 33 others in South.

bus accident 248 88 (photo credit: Uzi Barak/Kav Press)
bus accident 248 88
(photo credit: Uzi Barak/Kav Press)
Edward Gelfond, who was involved in one of the worst road accidents in Israeli history when the bus he was driving tumbled down a ravine in the South last December, killing 24 Russian tourists and injuring 33, was charged with manslaughter on Tuesday. The state prosecution announced it would ask for Gelfond to serve prison time if convicted. The indictment served in the Beersheba District Court holds Gelfond responsible for the safety and well-being of the passengers and therefore guilty of causing the accident. "The defendant took unnecessary risks, knowing that overtaking the second bus with his own was dangerous and could - as in this case it did - bring about fatal results," it stated. "The defendant was driving a large and wide vehicle, packed to full capacity with passengers and their luggage, and was trying to overtake the second bus, which was also large and wide," the charge sheet continued. During the accident, Gelfond was driving at 98 kilometers per hour, "well over the speed limit along that segment of the road, where the road slopes downhill and curves sharply to the right. A deep ravine lies on one side of the road. The driver did not slow down, but rather continued trying to overtake the second bus, veering left towards the left shoulder, knowing that this could cause his bus to roll over." Gelfond was not present when the indictment was served. It will be read to him when the trial opens in two weeks. His 60 passengers, representatives from five travel agencies on a scouting trip to Israel, were all from St. Petersburg, and had landed at nearby Ovda Airport just before the crash. They were on the way to their hotels in Eilat - a popular destination for tourists. Etgar Lefkovits contributed to this report.