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Israeli train crash

by: Tova Dadon, Ynetnews - Last updated: 2005-06-22

Israel train crash

photo by: ZAKA Archives

Police and Transportation Ministry investigators will be looking into Tuesday’s train wreck in the south of Israel in which eight people were killed and 200 injured.  The train hit a truck near Kibbutz Revadim on its way to Beer Sheva.

The death toll rose to eight early Wednesday after a female soldiers who sustained critical injuries in the disaster died in hospital.

The names of victims released so far include truck driver Leonid Galinsky, 51, train conductor Leonid Toruk, 46, Sergeant Major Nir Sarusi, 33, Rabbi Yosef Dramer, 58, Adi Amano, 19 and Olgo Akmayev, 20.

The investigation at this time will focus on the driver of the truck that attempted to cross the tracks and got struck by the train.

The driver's employer, the "Eliyahu Bros." trucking company, was investigated in the past for labor violations. The company made its employees work shifts far beyond the legal limit.

Chief of Police Moshe Karadi said at the site of the accident, "There's no doubt that the three bodies will need to reconsider the issue of railway crossing points. Those three bodies are Israel Railways, the Yoav Regional Council and the company building the Trans Israel Highway."

Southern District Police Commander Ori Bar-Lev described the accident: "The train was going south, and close to 5:15 p.m. a truck working in a construction site struck the front of the train."

"As a result, the truck was torn apart and the cab was thrown aside. The driver … was found dead at the scene. The train lost its balance and the three first cars turned over. That's where most of the dead and seriously injured evacuated by ambulance and helicopter were located."
Transportation Minister Meir Shitreet (Likud) announced the setting up of an investigative committee into the accident. Taking part will be Yeshayahu Ronen, the ministry's chief engineer, Traffic Department Police Commander Moshe Ben-Zikri and Harel Even, an Israel Railways representative.

The committee's report will be given to the minister in a week.

The Transportation Ministry noted that in the past all the railway crossing points were mapped out and it had just begun to separate the roads from the railways.

However, the accident occurred in an agricultural area, a place where planners had not anticipated that a car or truck would attempt to cross.

Tales from the inside

Ynet reporter Shlomi Donner, who was on the train at the time, reported that Beer Sheva-bound line crashed in the truck at around 5:45 PM.

After striking the truck, the train derailed with engine car demolished and the three first passenger cars badly damaged.

Chaim Azulai, 20, from Beer Sheva, was taken to Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot.

"I was in the train when suddenly I heard the whistle of the engine, and from that point on, I don't remember anything," Azulai said. "When I work up, there was a lot of dust and screaming from the car. There was a baby next to me. I hope nothing happened to him."

Beer Sheva University student Roee Rimon was on the train with his girlfriend, Michal: “We sat behind the train operator when I heard an unusually loud honk. I noticed a large cement truck right in front of us, and then we collided with it.”

Only three months ago, “Eliyahu Bros.,” the truck driver’s employer, was the focus of a police investigation for allegedly installing a special switch that neutralized the instrument which tracks the hours a driver logs. 

This was done so that their drivers could work longer shifts than allowed by the law.

Traffic Police Central Unit Chief Efraim Erlich told Ynet at the time, “We have formed a special investigation team that is examining all trucks in southern Israel. We have caught a truck driver who works for the company (Eliyahu Bros.) who drove for 40 consecutive hours. This type of driver is a time bomb.”

Hilel Posek, Eli Senyor, Avi Cohen, Hanan Greenberg and Shmulik Hadad contributed to this article

Reproduced with permission and copyright - Ynetnews