Two women and four children were killed yesterday at the Kever Binyamin junction near Kfar Sava when the van in which they were riding collided head-on with a truck.
The children, aged 12 and 13, were being taken from the special-needs school they attend near the town of Tira to their home in Kafr Qasem, east of Petah Tikva.
Immediately after the accident, the Sharon District police chief, Commander Kobi Cohen, ordered left turns prohibited at the junction until new traffic arrangements can be put in place. The order was made after consulting with local traffic police officers.
A preliminary investigation revealed that the driver of the van turned left at the junction without slowing down and giving right of way to the oncoming truck. The truck's two trailers were loaded with tons of building material. Unable to stop, the truck slammed into the van, crushed it and dragged it dozens of meters toward a gully near the road.
Rescue teams from the Sharon area converged on the scene within minutes. They were initially unable to extract the occupants of the van, which was trapped beneath the wheels of the truck, so paramedics began treating the injured through the windows. After fire fighters got the trailers off the van, the horrific outcome became clear: Three of the children and two women sitting beside them - an assistant teacher and the driver's mother - were pronounced dead at the scene. Three other children were taken to nearby hospitals with serious injuries, and one of them later died at Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer.
The van's 30-year-old driver, from Kafr Qasem, has 44 traffic violations on his record. He was severely injured and taken to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva.
The driver of the truck that hit the van has 54 traffic violations on his record. Traffic accident investigators under the command of Superintendent Sigal Bar-Tzvi detained him for questioning for several hours.
"It's a pity that Israel was not wise enough to put up a traffic light at this junction," said Kafr Qasem Mayor, Sarsur Nader, one of the many people who gathered at the scene of the accident. "The cost would have been negligible, and it could have prevented the deaths we saw here today."
Nader said he had approached the police and the Transportation Ministry about the junction several times, but nothing was done.
The Sharon District police said that since 2006, there have been 23 accidents at the junction, two of them with fatalities. They added that they had warned the relevant officials of the danger involved in making a left turn at the junction, and that work on a traffic light had already begun.
Kfar Sava Mayor Yehuda Ben-Hamo said he had asked former transportation minister Shaul Mofaz 18 months ago to install traffic lights at the junction, following a crash in which a driver was killed and a passenger severely injured. Ben-Hamo said he had been told the lights would be installed in 2008.
In another fatal traffic accident yesterday, an 80-year-old woman was run over by a truck in an Upper Nazareth shopping center. The truck was backing up after unloading merchandise, and the woman was walking behind it. Police detained the driver, an Upper Nazareth resident in his fifties, for questioning.
Meanwhile, police have not yet decided what charges to bring against David Hai Widovsky, the driver of the car that ran into an oncoming bus in the Jordan Valley on Tuesday, killing five people, including Widovsky's 8-year-old son, Naftali. He was on his way back from celebrating Lag Ba'omer at Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's tomb on Mount Meron when the crash occurred.
Police questioned Widovsky, who is hospitalized at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, for the first time yesterday, after which they said it was still unclear what caused him to veer out of his lane. However, they added, he might have fallen asleep at the wheel after not having slept the previous night due to the celebrations.
Police said they would wait until the seven-day mourning period was over before completing the investigation. They also said they were mulling charges of causing death by negligence, or even manslaughter.