Almost three weeks after Corporal Alhai Shitreet, 19, was killed in an accident
involving a military Humvee near the border with Lebanon, the causes of the fatal accident has been disclosed.
The initial investigation revealed that the driver's absentmindedness was what led his vehicle to overturn when it had climbed the road to the IDF's Turmus outpost, near Kibbutz Malkia.
According to details of the report received by Ynet, the suspicion is now that the driver glanced at his cell-phone that was lying near his feet instead of looking at the road, seconds before the accident occurred.
The company's sergeant major, who was the commanding officer and had sat next to the driver, suddenly noticed that the vehicle was swerving toward the side of the road and urged the driver to be careful.
During the investigation, the sergeant major said that at that moment, he had looked at the driver and saw that his head was pointed downwards, towards his feet. When he shouted at him, the driver raised his head and abruptly jerked the wheel in the opposite direction to avoid going off the road and into a field. The swerve was so violent that the jeep overturned.
The batallion commander, a colonel, admitted during the investigation that "we have failed as commanders" and ordered to inspect the proper functioning of the seatbelts, and mentioned other misconducts that had arisen during the investigation: Failure to brief the driver upon the arrival of the battalion to the sector, and failing to conduct a weekly briefing for the battalion's administrative soldiers, including the driver.
The commander of the engineer corps battalion noted in the report that "we lost one of the best fighters in the battalion, despite the many explanatory efforts that we made on the subject, including meetings with bereaved parents, briefings, visits to Beit Levinstein hospital and more. The incident showed us that the most dangerous weapon that we use every day is our car."
After the crash, the sergeant major then rushed to call the company medic, but he was unavailable. He then attempted to call an officer from the battalion, but the call was disconnected due to reception problems in the area. At that stage, he called Magen David Adom emergency services, and asked for an ambulance. Meanwhile, the driver ran to the military post and called the paramedics to come with him to the scene of the accident.
During the investigation, it was discovered that the driver, a soldier in mandatory military service, has two disciplinary citations against him, and had also exhibited nervous behavior in the hours before the accident during an argument with his commanders.
The spat had erupted after the driver demanded that they use the D-Max truck, considered more comfortable to drive than a Humvee, for the administrative mission that included transferring equipment from Golan Heights where some of the battalion's soldiers were staying for training.
It was further revealed that the required briefing prior to the drive was conducted via telephone, and not face to face as the military protocols dictates.
Another issue cited in the investigation had to do with the seatbelts in the back seat of the Humvee, where Corporal Shitreet and another soldier were sitting. Although both were strapped in and were wearing helmets during the ride, it was the other soldier, who was lightly injured in the crash, whose seatbelt got unlatched and was thrown some 10 meters from the vehicle.
It was further found that the small road leading from the military post to the main road was problematic - a two-way road with one lane and no shoulders, which requires drivers to take extra precautions to ensure safe travel. Nonetheless, the investigation revealed that the training that the driver received, as well as his periodic reviews and general safety tests on the Humvee were all in accordance with standards.
The battalion drew several conclusions from the fatal accident. The first of which is that commanding officers during the drive will take drivers' cell phones away, and keep them throughout the entire ride. In addition, soldiers will not be allowed to ride in the back part of the Humvee, only if they receive the officer's approval and undergo specific driving drills in roads leading to the post.
The IDF spokesman's statement said: "The IDF shares in the grief of the family and is in direct contact with them. The subject is investigated by the Criminal Investigation Division, and its findings will be transferred to the military prosecutor's office."