Sarah Popper (42) and Shimshon Popper (6), the wife and son of life prisoner Ami Popper, who murdered Arab workers in May of 1990, were killed Wednesday night when their private vehicle veered off course and crashed into oncoming traffic near Kibbutz Grufit some 50 km north of Eilat.
Popper himself was moderately injured in the accident. Two helicopters were alerted to the scene and rescue workers evacuated the wounded to the Soroka hospital in Be'er Sheva. In another accident in Bat Yam a pedestrian was killed after being hit by a car on Yoseftal street.
The initial investigation into the incident suggests that the three Popper children were sitting in the backseat of the car without seatbelts. It is also apparent that the passengers of the vehicle distracted the father, Ami Popper, who was driving with an invalid license which hadn't been renewed since it expired in 1991.
Difficult scene of the accident (Photo: ZAKA)
Wednesday night at around 9:30 p.m. rescue services received word of a car accident some 50 km north of Eilat, Mada teams arrived at the scene and treated the wounded until the helicopters arrived to evacuate them. Two were in serious condition, two were moderately wounded and one was lightly wounded. Firefighters forcibly extracted several wounded people from one of the vehicles involved in the accident.
Firefighters had to saw the car to rescue the mother and son, who was still alive at the time. A Mada team repeatedly attempted to resuscitate him but ultimately declared him dead.
Police superintendent Ami Auscpitz, head of the national traffic police in Eilat, who arrived at the scene of the accident, told Ynet: "This is an appalling accident. After many years with the police I can testify that this is one of the most difficult accidents I've ever seen. This is a completely unnecessary accident. Every accident is difficult but these images are simply heart wrenching."
Popper was on a 48 hour furlough from prison and was expected back in prison on Thursday. He was sentenced to seven life sentences, though that was cut back to 40 years imprisonment. After serving a quarter of that Popper was allowed furloughs and has already left and returned to the prison 124 times. During his incarceration Popper married and serves his time in the religious wing of the Masiyahu prison.
The murder that shook the nation
Ami Popper was convicted of murdering seven Arab workers and the attempted murder of ten additional workers on May 20th of 1990. Popper was 21 years old at the time. At approximately 7:00 am he arrived at the Rose Garden junction between Rishon Lezion and Nes Ziona, with a Glilon assault rifle and five ammunition clips, which he had stolen from his brother, who was a soldier.
Popper demanded of the Arab workers waiting at the junction to line up and asked to see their ID cards. When a car with West Bank license plates drove by Popper stopped it and forced the passengers to join the lineup at gunpoint. Afterwards Popper opened fire at the line, killing seven of the workers.
The murder created a storm in Israel and the territories, where riots broke out and rioters were killed by IDF fire. Popper was immediately arrested after the murder and first claimed his motive had been his girlfriend's departure. Later he changed his story, claiming to have been raped by an Arab when he was 13 years old and was now seeking revenge.
Popper was convicted of seven accounts of murder and sentenced him to seven life sentences and an additional 20 consecutive years. In prison Popper became religious, marrying a Canadian woman from family identified with the Kach movement in 1993. In 1995 his eldest son was born and two more sons followed.
Since the beginning of the year 13 people have been killed in car accidents.
Avi Cohen and Raanan Ben-Zur contributed to this report