Families: Yishai not to blame for Carmel fire

Bereaved families say operational command of the police and Prisons Service responsible for deaths.

Burnt trees after the Carmel Fire 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Burnt trees after the Carmel Fire 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
Bereaved families from the 2010 Carmel Forest Disaster speaking at a press conference in the Knesset on Monday said that they place sole responsibility for the deaths of their family members on the operational command of the police and Prisons Service.
Forty-four people were killed in the forest fire, including 37 Prisons Service cadets and their commanding officers, who died when their bus was caught in the blaze.
The fire also caused widespread damage, totaling millions of shekels, to land and property. An estimated 1.5 million trees were destroyed.
The families met earlier with Minister of Interior Eli Yishai, saying that they felt a need to say that he was not responsible for the deaths of their relatives.
It was reported in January that the State Comptroller’s investigation into the disaster would hold Yishai and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz accountable.
“Those responsible are the people who gave the orders and managed the events on the ground on the day of the disaster,” said Najib Sarchan, father of Misher Ias Sarchan, who was killed on the bus that was trapped in the fire.
“Every sensible person in the country knows that it was not those sitting in their offices in Jerusalem who ordered the bus to drive into an inferno tens of meters high,” he said.
“Even if the [Fire Department] would have had all the equipment in the world, helicopters or fire engines, it would not have been able to save even one of the cadets on the bus,” Sarchan said. “Therefore, the responsibility lies on the professional ranks which managed the incident in the few hours from the time the bus left until the time all of us heard the bitter news.”
“Forty-four people were killed in the disaster, they were the salt of the earth. The pain and despair which now accompanies us, the bereaved families will be with us all our lives. Our worlds have been destroyed because after loosing a member of your family it is impossible to move on,” he added.
The families denied that Yishai was exploiting them for political purposes, and reiterated that they had declared themselves politically neutral at a conference they held earlier this month. They emphasized, however, that they were referring specifically to the deaths of those on the bus and not the destruction of the forest.
The State Comptroller’s Office sent the final draft of its report on the disaster to government ministers and officials last Thursday, who have been given three weeks to respond.