Six people, including children, were killed and 10 were injured when bus 402 from Jerusalem to Bnei Brak collided with a truck on Highway 1 on Sunday evening.
A spokesman for the Egged bus company said the bus, which left Jerusalem for Bnei Brak at 5:40pm, apparently hit a truck that was standing on the road margins.
"The bus collided with a truck transporting marble plates, which was parked on the side of the road. A part of the bus got ripped in two. People were thrown into the air while the bus was moving," said ZAKA spokesman Motti Burkchin.
The commander of the Beit Shemesh fire station, Reuven Yitzhak, who commanded the rescue operation, told Ynet: "We arrived at the scene and saw a truck on the side of the road. We were told the bus came at it from the left. The entire right side of the bus was peeled off, ripped out to the seats. We went on the bus and found fatalities lying between the seats."
Magen David Adom paramedics evacuated the injured to the Assaf HaRofeh Medical Center, the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer and the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot. Among them is one in critical condition, one in serious condition, three in moderate condition and three lightly injured. In addition, three lightly injured people were evacuated to the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.
Both the truck driver, a resident of East Jerusalem, and the bus driver told traffic police what had happened.
The truck driver Rizq Zarina, who lives on the border of the neighborhoods Gilo and Beit Safafa in East Jerusalem, told his brother, Wisam, that he had to stop the truck because of a gear malfunction.
"My brother has been working as a truck driver for 15 years. The truck was stuck because its gear stopped working," Wisam said. "He was stopped on the side of the road and waited for a tow-truck inside the cabin. He called me asking me to call a mechanic, who said the truck needed to be towed away. The accident happened when the bus collided with the truck and pushed it forward."
"This is a truck transporting stone. It doesn't belong to my brother, he's just an employee of an Israeli company that he's been working for over the past four years," Wisam added.
A testimony from one of the passengers raised the suspicion that the bus driver was distracted, which led to the accident.
"The truck driver was standing on the side of the road with the emergency lights blinking. We came at the truck at an absurd speed, the bus driver drove like a maniac in my opinion," Yinon Yazdi told a radio station.
The Egged bus driver was involved in a similar accident three years ago on the way to Jerusalem. In that accident, he also hit a truck, and some of the passengers were lightly injured.
Among the fatalities were: Yaakov Heshin, 27, Israel Weinberg, 26, Hanna Peasa Frenkel, 23, all from Jerusalem, and Levy Yitzhak Amdadi, 17, from Yavne'el.
Hanna Peasa Frenkel's husband, who was lightly injured in the accident, is still hospitalized at the Kaplan Medical Center. The couple is considered prominent in the ultra-Orthodox society. Hanna is the daughter of the Rebbe of the Biala Hasidic dynasty, while her husband is the son of the Rebbe of the Bucecea Botosani Hasidic dynasty.
Levy Yitzhak Amdadi is the son of Rabbi Hillel Amadadi of the Breslev community in Yavne'el. The family is among the prominent families in the community.
At the Assaf HaRofeh Medical Center, doctors are fighting for the life of Sara Shpringer, 20, from Jerusalem, who was seriously injured. She is engaged to be married and her wedding is supposed to be in three and a half months. Her sister was lightly injured in the accident, and is expected to be discharged from the hospital shortly.
Bus 402 is a "Mehadrin line" used by ultra-Orthodox Jews to travel between Jerusalem and Bnei Brak.
The accident caused heavy traffic in the area, with the westbound lane being closed between the Latrun Interchange and the Anava Interchange, and around the Sha'ar HaGai Interchange.