The personal belongings of the dozens of cadets who were killed in the Carmel disaster Thursday are still scattered over the tables in their Prison Service school classroom. They were called to help in the evacuation of the Damon Prison and left the site in a hurry, never to return. Their friends who were miraculously saved wept for them on Friday. "My cadets burned in between my hands," their commander said.
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Among the 49 cadets of the officers' course only a few survived the fire: Three cadets who were late in catching the bus which later caught fire; six married women with children who were told not to join the efforts and three cadets, two of whom managed to escape the burning bus. The third cadet drove together with the course commander, Amnon Wahabi in a private car behind the bus.
Last October, the current class of the Prison Service course commenced training. The cadets were meant to spend six months in training.
"When the call came to support the evacuation efforts the cadets left everything and boarded a bus to the Carmel," head of training Ahser Vaknin related.
According to Prison Service information, the bus arrived at Beit Oren and headed towards the Damon Prison. A security guard stopped the bus some 700 meters from the prison and prevented it from going on further because of the fire. The cadets decided to head back towards the Beit Oren junction and while performing a u-turn on the narrow road the bus caught fire.
The cadets immediately tried to escape the burning vehicle. The back door would not open due to the heavy heat but was eventually broken through enabling the cadets to flee the bus. But the fire spread quickly, catching on with the cadets and led to the death of 36 individuals.
Officer Sigal Duek, a member of the training staff who stood outside the bus and directed it together with two other cadets managed to escape. She later said she was pushed together with the cadets into a private vehicle which ushered them away from the deadly scene.
"The other survivors have not yet taken in what has happened," Vaknin said. "All the Prison Service workers are one big family and what happened to us is a major blow. We are facing the greatest challenge in the coming days. Nevertheless, I am confident we shall continue in our way. We are forever committed to the families of the friends who passed away. We shall support them forever."
According to Vaknin, the fate of the officers' course has yet to be decided. "We are currently busy identifying the bodies and attending the funerals and supporting the families."
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