An elderly American couple who came to Israel for the first time in years to meet their soon-to-be born grandson, were involved in a fatal bus crash near Ben Gurion Airport, leaving the wife trapped under a block of concrete where she died.
Three women and one man were killed late Sunday in a fatal crash when an Egged 947 line from Jerusalem to Haifa overturned and slammed into a concrete bus stop. The driver, 44-year-old Haifa resident Alexander Liebman, has been accused of negligent homicide.
Bertha and Baruch Shwartz, both 71, have been living in Philadelphia since 1976 when they immigrated to the United States. They arrived in Israel for the first time in 9 years to welcome the birth of their fifth grandchild.
The husband, who survived the crash, said he was looking for his wife for half an hour before finding her lifeless body. “I was screaming, ‘Where is she?’” he said. “She was under a block of concrete, I remember I ran outside and started shouting ‘Bring the firefighters.’”
The couple celebrated their wedding anniversary last Thursday and on the same day they decided to go to an attorney to help them write their will.
"What hurts the most is that in two weeks our grandson is expected to be born, and she [Bertha] was looking forward to it so much,” Baruch said. “She hasn’t been to Israel in nine years and for her this visit was very significant."
On the day of the tragedy the two went to Jerusalem from the central city of Petah Tikva, where they rented an apartment, to visit the Western Wall. On the way back, they decided to take the 947 line to Haifa that stops near Petah Tikva.
“The bus was half an hour late, I kept telling her, ‘Let’s take a bus to Bnei Brak and from there to Petah Tikva,’ but she insisted to wait,” he said. “We had so many opportunities to get out of it … it’s cabalistic.”
Baruch said his wife insisted on sitting in the front of the bus near the driver while he sat further back to get a better WiFi reception.
“I heard something rolled down the front part of the inside of the bus,” he said. “And then it started shaking and there was a terrifying noise. The bus tilted from side to side and people started screaming,” he added.
“We felt the bus was about overturn and then the accident happened.”
He said immediately after the incident him and several other men tried to break down one of the doors on the bus to rescue a pregnant woman and once she was safe he went back for his wife.
“I tried to lift up the concrete block which my wife was lying under,” he said. “Nobody did anything [to help].”
“A police officer arrived on a motorcycle and when I told him to call the firefighters, he said, ‘Why? Did something happen here.””
Bertha Shwartz is survived by two daughters, one son and four grandchildren. The fifth grandchild is set to be born next week.
First published: 14:33 , 12.24.19