Top officials in the Egged bus company are to be questioned over the tragic accident Sunday, in which six people were killed when a bus rammed into a truck that was parked in the breakdown lane of the Yerushalayim-Tel Aviv highway in central Israel, Israel Radio reported Wednesday. Police are seeking to determine if Egged management knew of the poor driving record of the driver who was at the wheel of the 402 Yerushalayim-Bnei Brak bus when the accident occurred.
In a statement, police said that in the past, they have questioned management and owners of private bus companies and transport firms whose drivers were involved in accidents. “We intend to do the same thing here,” the statement said.
According to police, the driver had been involved in at least one major accident in the past. At a hearing to extend his remand Monday, police said that the driver was involved in an accident in 2013 under similar circumstances, and in the same area – and had injured 18 people in that accident, none seriously. Afterwards, Israel Radio reported, the Egged bus company had reassigned the driver to local routes rather than inter-city routes – but several weeks ago he was restored to his previous status, and was assigned routes between Yerushalayim and Tel Aviv or Bnei Brak.
Reports in Israeli media quoted regular passengers and witnesses as saying that the driver was known to be a dangerous and risky driver. In comments to Israel Radio, one passenger said that the driver “would weave back and forth between vehicles, trying to get ahead of the other cars. Passengers would point out his dangerous behavior, but he would ignore them.” The report said that numerous passengers had complained about him, and quoted police as saying that they would try to clarify whether that was true or not.
Police investigators testifying in court Monday said that besides acting in a careless manner and driving aggressively, the driver attempted to tamper with the vehicle’s “black box” – the recording device which keeps track of the movements of the bus as well as how fast it was traveling. Thus, besides negligent manslaughter, the driver may be charged with evidence tampering and other associated crimes. Police are also investigating reports that he was talking on a cellphone when the crash occurred.