Erez Schwartz, his wife Sarit, their son Amit, 4, and Erez’s father, Shlomo, all of Eilat, were killed yesterday when their car hit a bus head-on on the Arava Highway near Kibbutz Grofit.
The family’s 2-year-old daughter, Ofri, was critically injured and taken by helicopter to Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva.
Seven bus passengers were also injured, most of them lightly, and were suffering from shock. They were taken to Yoseftal Medical Center in Eilat.
Oshrat Schwartz, Erez’s ex-wife and mother of his two teenage daughters, said the family had been traveling to a party in Ashdod to mark the birth of Erez’s niece.
Relatives said that Erez on Wednesday had driven to Tel Aviv and back for work, which may have been why Sarit was driving yesterday.
According to Chief Insp. Lior Ben-Simon, the accident on Highway 90 occurred when the Schwartz car suddenly veered right off the road, and then swerved left across the entire road, into the path of the southbound bus, which hit the car with great force. So great was the impact that the car split in two, with one part thrown 25 meters from the roadside.
Before being hit by the bus, which belonged to the Shasha company, the car had also scraped the side of another bus, damaging its bumper, according to the bus driver involved in the accident.
Yaakov Levy of Holon had been taking employees of a Haifa factory to a weekend vacation in Eilat.
“Suddenly, I saw the driver hitting the bus that was in front of me, scraping his rear section and his rear bumper,” said Levy. “Then it zigzagged on the road, it was going very fast.
“When it was already quite close to me, it suddenly veered off the road onto the right shoulder and − I don’t understand what happened − all of a sudden I see it cutting right in front of me, across the whole width of the road.
“There was a lot of smoke, and I heard a horrible noise. I understood that it had hit me and then I saw the car simply split in two, with one part flying forward. I know I’m not to blame, but still, it’s horrible what happened here. So many killed...”
After the accident, the bus passengers were picked up by another bus and taken to their Eilat hotel.
From October 2006 to January of this year, 31 people have been killed on the southern part of Highway 90, and 60 seriously injured.
“What characterizes this road is that there is no separation between the two lanes, and so any mistake by a driver in any direction will cause a fatal accident,” said Shmuel Abuav, director of the Or Yarok road safety organization.
Udi Gat, chairman of the Hevel Eilot Regional Council, where the accident took place, said the government must widen the entire length of the Arava Road.
While work has started on the southernmost part, just north of Eilat, “they are working at a pace of 20 kilometers a year, when the road is 173 kilometers long. This is no solution for the heavy and increasing traffic on the road, particularly on weekends.”
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