Young MDA volunteer chooses bus rescue over reward

The youth is the son of two former immigrants from the US who live in the Arava's Kibbutz Yahel.

mda ambulance 224.88 (photo credit: MDA)
mda ambulance 224.88
(photo credit: MDA)
Eighteen-year-old volunteer Magen David Adom medic Ilan Stark, who spent 90 horrific minutes at the site of Tuesday's bus catastrophe, was too busy Wednesday helping out in the coordination of volunteers in Eilat to receive a volunteer award from Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri in Jerusalem. One day after the accident, Stark, who is doing a year's national service with MDA before being inducted into the IDF, recalled it as "the worst thing I had seen in my life, like a battlefield." "We were at Josephthal Hospital when the alarm was sounded about the bus, and we rushed to the site and arrived before anyone else. The sight was horrible. Dozens of dead and wounded were scattered along the route where the bus had rolled down into the wadi. Some passengers were trapped in the bus, and we heard screams of injured who called for help." It took him only a few seconds to switch from shock to the professional rescue mode he learned working in an ambulance, he said. Asked where he learned to switch off emotional involvement so he could treat badly injured people, Stark said that "some I was taught, and some I taught myself. One has to function as a professional in such circumstances." He and the professional ambulance medic took control and reported to headquarters on the dimensions of the tragedy. Within minutes, more ambulances arrived and were able to drive down the perilous dirt path to a place near the bus. They gave first aid to those with smashed organs and bone fractures. Stark recalled that none of the bus victims he saw were belted to the seats, as required by law. It seemed to him that he was involved more with removing bodies from the scene than in treating wounded. MDA director-general Eli Bin said the bus catastrophe was one of the most logistically complicated the organization has known. "The situation did not leave room for errors. The mental strength and incredible willingness of our staffers and volunteers to help out were very tangible," Bin said. Stark completed his studies at the Ma'aleh Shaharut School in Yotvata before spending all his time volunteering for MDA. He had been chosen some time ago to represent thousands of youths from the age of 13 who volunteer for MDA to save lives, by receiving the volunteer's prize from the minister. But Stark had to work on Wednesday helping out his volunteer coordinator at the MDA station in Eilat. In recent years, MDA lowered the minimum age from 15 to 13 after large numbers of younger teens asked to join. They are called "MDA cadets" - a group established after the first-aid and ambulance service organization was accepted as a full member of the International Red Cross Movement a few years ago. The youth is the son of two former immigrants from the US who live in the Arava's Kibbutz Yahel, established by the Reform Movement 32 years ago, and is active in the Reform Jewish community. Stark's mother Lori, who comes from Rhode Island, is secretary of Kibbutz Yahel, while his father, Drew, from California, works in a company producing and marketing field crops.