The driver manning the wheel of the bus which crashed off Highway 12, north of the southern resort city of Eilat, has 22 prior traffic offenses, Ynet learned Tuesday.Twenty-five people were killed and 33 injured, as the bus dove off the road, plummeting 45-feet down. The 39-year-old driver was seriously wounded.
According to the National Road Safety Authority, the driver got his license in 2001. The police believe he was unfamiliar with the road, and lost control of the vehicle while trying to skirt another bus. Unable to correct his form, he ended up hitting the guardrail and flipping over.
Once the dust settles, the Police Department stands to begin investigating the catastrophe.
An investigation by the Ministry of Transportation also revealed that minutes before the fatal accident, the driver was involved in an altercation with another bus driver.
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said that his office's investigators suspect that the two drivers argued which of them would cross an IDF barrier first. Shortly afterwards the driver overtook the other bus and then lost control of the vehicle and crashed.
Mofaz, who visited the scene of the accident, said: "Unfortunately we still don't know what caused the crash. There has only been one accident on this section of the highway in the last six years, and experts of the National Infrastructure Ministry say that the road meets all the required standards."
Mofaz said that the probe into the accident is ongoing.
He added that the crash was "the result of aggressive behavior on the part of drivers."
Long line of fatal accidents
The police are likely to pursue every lead in the case, including possible human error by the driver, who was seriously hurt in the crash.
The road on which the accident took place is a slanted, hard road to drive, riddled with sharp turns and steep drops. Nevertheless, it is properly paved, and in clear mid-day driving conditions, should not pose a problem, providing calculated and careful driving is applied.
The police are likely to begin by finding out how long he was driving and whether or not he had a chance to rest. Fatigue is considered a major contributing factor to absent-mindedness, which may have caused the driver to swerve off the road.
Calamity. The crash site (Photo: Reuters)
They will also check of he had prior driving offences or convictions, and whether or not his license had ever been revoked.
A second avenue likely to be pursued is one of a mechanical failure. A tourist bus is innately a huge vehicle, packed full of people and luggage. As a result, its center of gravity towers, rendering it vulnerable to changed in speed and making in harder for it to avert problems on the road.
The modern tour bus is equip with a variety of safety systems meant to help the driver avoid accidents, making the mechanical state of the bus imperative to determining the cause of the crash.
Tuesday's horrific accident is, unfortunately, another in a long line of fatal crashes involving public transportation in Israel.
The most memorable of them all took place in 1999, when a bus shuttling 54 members of a singles group toppled off Highway 65, near the Galilee community of Eilaboun, after the driver lost control of the bus, driving on a slippery road. Seventeen people were killed and 37 were injured.
June of 2006 saw five people killed and 80 injured after a head-on collision between a car and a train in Beit Yehoshua, near Netanya. The accident happened after two cars which arrived at the railroad track collided. The impact hurled one of the cars onto the track. The driver was rescued from the car seconds before it was pummeled by the train.
Hillel Posek, Shahar Haselkorn and Jonathan Webber contributed to this report