Five Israeli hikers and six Japanese tourists were killed Thursday night in a car accident in Bolivia's Salt Desert.
The accident occurred after two vehicles were involved in a head-on collision. All those involved in the crash perished.
The four young Israeli women killed in the accident were identified as Ortal Ducas, Sivan Budnizky, Daniel Atzmon and Adi Roseman – all residents of Haifa in their 20s. The Israeli man who was killed in the crash was identified as Tel Aviv resident Liran Mizrachi.
Walid Mansur, Israel's ambassador to Peru, arrived in Bolivia on Friday morning to make sure the bodies of the four women and one man make it safely back to Israel.
A tourist attraction. Bolivian Salt Desert (Archive photo: Nissim Aharon)
The Foreign Ministry has been able to contact all of the victim's families, reportedly living in Haifa and in Tel Aviv, and has informed them of the accident’s details, including the fact that gas canisters, which were apparently inside the vehicles, had caught a flame as a result of the collision.
The Bolivian Salt Desert – Salar de Uyuni – is a known tourist attraction. Southern Bolivia is riddled with vast salt plains - Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat, spanning 4,085 square miles.
'Only 1 of childhood friends will return home'
Mor Elbaz, 21, of Haifa survived the fatal crash after letting a young man who befriended one of her girlfriends to take her place on the jeep ride at the last minute.
Mor's father, Boaz Elbaz, told Ynet that his daughter had contacted him after being transferred with other Israelis to the Chabad in La Paz. According to him, the Israelis travelled in two jeeps on a two-day trip.
"One of the girls on Mor's group formed a relationship with one of the boys on the other group, leading my daughter to move to the second jeep," he said.
"She told me that the two jeeps were travelling about 30 or 40 meters from each other. The accident itself was not seen from my daughter's jeep, but Mor turned around and saw her friends' jeep on fire. She informed the Bolivian driver, who then returned to the scene of the accident," the father added.
From right to left: Mor Elbaz, Adi Roseman, Sivan Budnizky, Daniel Atzmon and Ortal Ducas
Mor and her four friends grew up together and studied in the same school in Haifa since they were children. After completing their military service, they worked and saved money for a long trip abroad, which began in Argentina about three months ago. They also visited Chile and Brazil, and hoped to continue from Bolivia to Mexico and the United States.
Boaz told Ynet that he and his wife flew to Brazil over the Passover holiday and met with the four girls there. "We celebrated the seder night with them in Brazil. We had a great time and watched a football game together. On the last day before they left to Bolivia, we took them to a nice restaurant and it was so much fun. This is an unbelievable disaster. They are amazing girls and amazing friends. Such a loss is incomprehensible."
He added that the Israelis who were not involved in the crash were expected to return to Israel after being questioned by the local police.
Ahiya Raved contributed to this report