Veterinarian's pickup truck had stalled on the railroad tracks after a collision with a second vehicle travelling in the opposite direction.
By REBECCA ANNA STOILPublished: JUNE 14, 2006 00:12Advertisement
A day after five people were killed and over 90 injured in a train accident near Beit Yehoshua, the only person arrested in connection with the incident made his first court appearance, even as police emphasized that the investigation was far from complete and that other arrests were possible.
Veterinarian Yonatan Va'adia was arrested Monday night, hours after a train struck his Isuzu pickup truck, which had stalled on the railroad tracks after a collision between his vehicle and a second pickup that was traveling in the opposite direction.
Va'adia was charged with manslaughter, causing an accident, and failure to maintain control of his vehicle. The veterinarian's blood, tested shortly after the collision, revealed that there was a medication related to valium in his system.
Among the evidence against Va'adia, police cited that he was suspected of being involved in a earlier crash shortly before the Beit Yehoshua collision. The second person involved in that crash, which allegedly occurred in the parking lot of the Ikea at nearby Poleg, was interviewed by police. Police sources said that that the statement by the driver in the first accident could "offer an indication as to Va'adia's state of mind" during the second collision that led to the fatal train crash.
According to police, Va'adia originally reported a version of events that included both accidents. However, when being questioned a second time under warning, the veterinarian stopped cooperating with his interrogators regarding the first collision.
"Va'adia's arrest was something that was deemed necessary in light of the testimony that we gathered," said a senior Central District officer. But, the officer said, the investigation was in its infancy, and the special investigative team was examining several directions. It was also investigating the responsibilities of the train driver and Israel Railways in the collision.
A day after the collision, more questions than answers remained. While Israel Railways CEO Ofer Lintchevsky said Monday that "the train's driver operated the emergency brake and honked about 300 meters before the crash, but it didn't manage to stop," witnesses said that the train did not brake before the impact.
Similarly, accounts differed as to whether the train driver actually received instructions to stop the train, which was carrying approximately 200 passengers at the time of the collision. Following last year's deadly collision at Revadim, the investigation concluded that a train such as the one involved in Monday's crash could come to a stop within 10-20 seconds. On Monday, while Israel Railways' control center tried repeatedly to warn the driver via walkie-talkie about the truck on the tracks, the driver never responded. Israel Railways has still not explained why the driver did not receive the warning and why no attempt was made to warn the driver via the radio installed in the train.
The driver said the danger became apparent when he noticed the truck on the tracks approximately 200 meters - less than 10 seconds - before the train struck the stalled vehicle.
The name of the fifth victim, 26-year-old Lilach Cohen of Givatayim, was released in accordance with her family's wishes early Tuesday morning. She was laid to rest later Tuesday.
Of the nearly 90 people injured in the train accident, 15 remained in four hospitals on Tuesday. One was in serious condition, four had moderate injuries and the rest were in good condition.
Judy Siegel contributed to this report.
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