Minibus-train crash victims laid to rest

Driver to reenact accident for police after being remanded

crash funeral 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
crash funeral 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Thousands of mourners thronged the streets of the capital’s Mea She’arim neighborhood on Friday morning, as the funeral procession for the seven family members killed a day earlier when a train hit their minibus near Kibbutz Gat made its way to the Har Hamenuhot cemetery.
Police closed all roads leading to Mea She’arim’s Shabbat Square throughout the morning.
The members of the Bernstein-Gotstein family from Betar Illit were killed on Thursday night when their minibus was hit by a northbound train on Route 353.
Aryeh Bernstein, 43, his wife, Rivkah, 41, four of their children – Malki Gotstein, 21, who was pregnant, Mordechai, nine, Chaya 14, and Yochanan, 16 – and Gotstein’s son, Mordechai, one, were killed instantly.
Around 20 people on the minibus were injured Gotstein’s husband, Dudi, was the only family member to survive the crash, and is in moderate condition.
He is in intensive care in Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center with broken bones and tears to his liver and spleen.
He did not attend Friday’s funeral and reportedly has not been told his wife and son are dead.
Zaka rescue and recovery organization spokesman Moti Bukjin said the team members who came to collect the bodies were horrified to discover that they knew the victims: Aryeh Bernstein was a Zaka volunteer.
The family had been on their way to the nearby Moshav Komemiyut to spend Shabbat.
An initial investigation showed that the driver of the minibus drove past the barrier at the railroad crossing, and was unable to maneuver out of the way of the oncoming train.
The train operator pressed the emergency break, but did not have enough time to stop before hitting the minibus.
No serious injuries were reported on the train, although a number of passengers were treated for shock.
The driver apparently had 11 traffic violations over the last eight years. Police however, said Saturday that 11 arrests over a period of eight years is not an especially high number.
Ya’akov Yashurun has also been arrested for property crimes and disturbing the peace, with the last offence recorded in 1998.
On Friday, the Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court extended Yashurun’s remand by five days.
Immediately upon his release from Beersheba’s Soroka Hospital the following day, he was turned over to officers from the Israel Prisons Service.
A spokesman for the traffic division of the Israel Police said Saturday that Yeshurun, who was a neighbor of the Bernstein family, is currently being investigated for manslaughter and will be taken by police to perform a reenactment of the incident in the coming days.
According to the spokesman, while being questioned by his hospital bed, Yeshurun “said that he was talking to the passenger sitting next to him at the time of the accident, and that’s why he missed the barrier, the lights, and the bells. This would still be considered negligence,” he said.
During the remand extension hearing on Friday, police told the presiding judge that the barrier is visible from a far distance for an approaching car. Yeshurun’s lawyer admonished police for questioning his client without a lawyer present and said that at the scene of the accident there were signs Yeshurun had pressed on the brakes, indicating that he was not trying to run the barrier before the train arrived.
Ron Friedman contributed to this report.