Despite the thwarting of five different terror attacks on Sunday, a feat which resulted in no Israeli casualties, tragedy struck on Sunday evening when a bus carrying dozens of people crashed into an oil truck on Route 1, one of Israel’s major highways. At least six people, including a child, were killed, with at least 20 others wounded.
The crash occurred around 6:30 on Sunday evening. The bus, Route 402, was on its way from Jerusalem to Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox city near Tel Aviv. An oil truck had pulled over to the side of the highway when the driver noticed a leak in the truck. Soon after he stopped on the shoulder, the driver of the bus, not yet named, veered off the road, colliding with the truck.
A ZAKA emergency service spokesman, one of the first on the scene of the accident, told Arutz Sheva, “The place looked like a battlefield, some of them (the victims) flew from the bus, some of them were crushed to death.”
According to Arutz Sheva, the bus driver was arrested Monday morning on suspicions of negligence while driving.
While car accidents are commonplace, in Israel it is not unheard of to suspect foul play when tremendous tragedy strikes. Suspicions were aroused of a potential terror incident when it was revealed that both the bus and truck drivers are Arabs, the latter a 40-year-old resident of East Jerusalem.
Indeed, Facebook saw posts to this effect, with Palestinian boasts that the accident was an act of terror and calls for more actions such as this one.
Palestinians brag that todays horrific bus accident in Israel was an act of terror. pic.twitter.com/wq4okh55N9
— Anarcho-Zionist (@AnarchoZionist) February 15, 2016
However, authorities quickly announced that there was no foul play suspected, and the bus driver’s history indicates that he has a history of reckless and negligent driving. Arutz Sheva reported that the driver had caused a similar accident in 2013 on the same road and the same bus line, leaving dozens injured. Following the incident, the driver was removed from intercity routes and restricted to local routes. Only recently was the driver put back on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road.
A regular passenger on the bus line, who was familiar with the driver, said that he frequently drove unsafely, using excessive speed, failing to maintain following distance behind other cars on the road, and taking his attention off the road. The passenger told Channel 2 that an accident like Sunday’s was “merely a matter of time.”
The names of the six casualties were released on Monday: Ya’akov Meir Heshin, 27, who was on his way to meet a potential bride; Yisrael Weinberg, 26, who was traveling to his cousin’s wedding; Chaya Pasha Frenkel, 23, whose husband was on the bus with her and was moderately wounded; Levy Yitzhak Amdadi, 17; Ahron Mordechai Cohen, 18, who studied in Bnei Brak; and Leah Melamed, 61, a mother of seven who taught in a seminary in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement about the crash on Sunday night, saying, “I was updated on the situation from the site and the investigation. I join in the sorrow of the families and wish a full recovery to the wounded in the name of us all.”