Six people were killed and 15 were injured, two of them seriously, in a multi-vehicle accident on the outskirts of Haifa Wednesday afternoon. The accident occurred after a truck driver apparently lost control of the vehicle and slammed into cars and pedestrians at an intersection, police said.
The double-trailer truck, driven by a Bedouin from Rahat, was carrying rocks from Isfiya and apparently intended to take the main road heading south.
Eyewitnesses said the truck went out of control and crashed into other cars and pedestrians. One of the cars burst into flames. The truck finally stopped dozens of meters after passing the intersection, in a nearby field.
Emergency crews evacuated the injured in ambulances to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. Fire fighters, rescue teams and maintenance teams from the Nesher municipality and the National Roads Company worked for hours to clear the smashed cars and broken traffic lights from the road, assisted by a bulldozer from the nearby Nesher quarry.
“When the first rescue teams arrived the whole intersection was on fire,” said Naftali Rotenberg, a rescue worker. “We found bodies and people crying for help. Fortunately the firefighting depot was close by and the firefighters arrived in seconds, rescuing people who were trapped in cars,” he said.
Raed Khatib, who was traveling in the vehicle behind the truck, told Haaretz the driver seemed to have lost control and was unable to brake.
“I saw the truck going down the hill and suddenly it started swerving all over the road. It was obvious that he had lost control and the truck just crushed the cars that were standing at the traffic light. It was a terrible sight. Several cars caught fire and I saw some people trapped in their cars,” he said.
Other people who saw the accident said they heard the driver screaming from the truck in an attempt to warn the other drivers on the road.
Police sources said the driver was probably gripped by fear and didn’t know what to do, totally losing control of the heavy vehicle.
The Police Traffic Division has set up a team to investigate the accident and collect testimonies from the truck driver, other drivers and people who were at the scene. It will also examine the truck’s condition and brakes.
Chief Superintendent Noam Begeinsky, head of traffic accidents in the Police Traffic Division, said he believed the accident was caused by a combination of overloading the truck and poor maintenance, i.e. brake malfunction.
“Anyone could have been hurt, people were crushed to death only because they happened to be standing at a red light,” an officer said.
The truck driver’s cousin yesterday expressed condolences to the families of the accident victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
“My cousin took his wife and three children on a trip to the north and did some work on the way,” he said.
“He is a very experienced and careful driver. We don’t know what happened there but we heard the brakes weren’t working.
“What made us terribly angry was that some people thought because he’s a Bedouin from Rahat it’s a terror attack − that’s impossible,” he added.
“It was an accident,” he said.
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