Edward Gelfond, the bus driver who was involved in the December 2008 Eilat crash,
which killed 24 tourists, was convicted of manslaughter Sunday by the Beersheba
District Court. The court ruled that Gelfond was aware of road conditions when trying to overtake another bus and that it was not an error of judgment.
The bus, carrying Russian
travel agents, fell into a riverbed after Gelfond tried to overtake another bus and hit the railway on a curved road. The crash, then dubbed the worst in Israeli history, also left 15 passengers severely injured.
The indictment against Gelfond, the most severe the prosecution has ever submitted against a bus driver, also contained charges of assault and battery.
Edward Gelfond in court (photo: Herzl Yosef)
The prosecution, led by Attorney Vadim Sigal, claimed that Gelfond took an unreasonable risk, knowing that trying to skirt around the second bus, under the circumstances, was perilous.
The defendant claimed he did not speed past 35 mph, and that the accident
was caused by the other bu. The court stated that the defendant, a professional driver, was well aware of road conditions.
The court accepted police reports that said the defendant was driving at 60 mph, which corresponded with witness reports, saying the bus was at a "crazy" speed during the crash.
Gelfond originally claimed that something fell on his head, but then changed his story, saying a pit in the road caused him to lose control of the vehicle. That argument was "debunked" according to court.
The defense also claimed lack of proper signs of the road, which the prosecution also showed to be untrue.
"Let this be a warning sign to all public transportation drivers," said Attorney Sigal, adding he was happy the court accepted the indictment to the fullest severity of the law.
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