The driver of the bus in which six people were killed when his vehicle rammed into a parked truck on February 14 had lost his license in December 2013, after he was involved in an accident in that year that occurred under similar circumstances – but he got his license back after police ruled that he was not a “dangerous driver.”
The report in Yediot Aharonot casts a pall on the judgement of police officials and the way they handled the history of this driver, who, despite being involved in at least two accidents as a bus driver for various companies in Israel, was allowed to continue working – until the accident last month, that claimed six lives.
In the December 2013 accident, the driver hit a truck parked on the side of Road 1, in roughly the same place where the more recent and more tragic collision occurred. 18 people were hurt in the 2013 incident, none seriously. Afterwards, the report said, the driver submitted his version of the accident to police, telling them that he had “failed to measure his speed in relationship to the other vehicle,” and as a result had hit the vehicle. I realize that I am responsible for the accident,” he told police.
While the police investigator who interviewed him criticized him sharply for his carelessness, he wrote in his evaluation that the driver was “an experienced driver who had a more or less clean record, and could not be considered a dangerous driver.” He was given back his license, but eight months later police decided to file charges against him again for unsafe driving. However, instead of prosecuting him, gave him a plea deal, and the driver was sentenced to 120 days of public service. His license was suspended for 45 days and he was required to pay a fine of NIS 500.
In response to the Yediot report, police said that the hearing on the 2013 accident was a “procedural discussion and not part of a criminal investigation. Its purpose was to determine the level of danger the driver posed, based on this incident and his driving history. As such, the judgement of the investigator was proper, it appears to us.”
Besides the 2013 accident, the driver was involved in yet a second accident, this one on Road 443 in December 2010, on the Modi’in-Tel Aviv route. He was then driving for the Veolia bus company (now out of business), driving late at night in heavy rain. According to the driver, a car that passed him on the highway splashed rain on the windshield of the bus, temporarily blinding him. As a result, he said, he crashed into an oncoming car, injuring a father and a son.
Police investigators said that besides acting in a careless manner and driving aggressively in the recent accident, the driver attempted to tamper with the vehicle’s “black box” – the recording device that keeps track of the movements of the bus, how fast it was going, and other functions. Besides responsibility for the deaths, he may also 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.