Carmel Fire: Bus Blaze Victims Have All Been Identified

Prison service officers course cadets were on their way to evacuate inmates from the approaching fire when the bus they rode in became trapped and engulfed in flames

The task of identifying the forty-one bodies of the tragic victims of the bus that burned down to a shell has been completed, a police spokesperson reported on Saturday afternoon. The bus burned in a wildfire that has been raging since early Thursday in the Carmel area of northern Israel. When a fallen tree blocked a road, their bus was trapped in the flames.

Thirty-six of the fallen were prison service officers course cadets that were on the way to Damon jail to evacuate its prisoners from the path of the flames. Two of the fallen were northern region police officers, and one was a 16-year-old volunteer firefighter.

bus - Haaretz - December 4 2010

Prison Service Commander Benny Kaniak spoke of the catastrophe in his instructions to all of the officers in the service on Saturday. "The officers course cadets, first graduation class, the future generation of commanders in the Prison Service, went out to perform their duties with determination, professionalism, and loyalty to the state – but did not return from their mission."

"God test us all, from all different religions and ethnicities, at all times, and the test he handed us today, on the Hanukkah holiday of all days, is too heavy to bear," Kaniak continued. "We will accept the heavenly decree, but we won't for one moment stop hurting or asking 'why.'"

Kaniak added, "During these difficult days, I call upon you commanders, officers, jailers, to demonstrate unity, friendship and mutual aid, a shoulder to lean on, and selp anyone who needs it. The names, the faces and the memories will stay with us forever."

Over 15,000 residents, including 600 prison inmates, were evacuated as the blaze raged out of control, devastating hundreds of acres of pine forest before sweeping down the slopes of the Carmel plateau towards Israel's third largest city.