Bus Driver 'Was Talking to Woman' at Time of Accident, Says Indictment

A bus driver was talking with a female passenger - and then the horrible accident occurred, taking the lives of five people and injuring more than 50. This emerges from the indictment filed yesterday at the Acre Magistrates Court against Egged bus driver Ghanem Bahjat, who while driving one of the company's buses about three months ago hit a truck parked at the side of the Acre-Safed road.

Acre bus accident
Archive: Yaron Kaminsky

The indictment filed by attorney Eran Bar-Or from the Haifa District Prosecutor's Office attributes to Bahjat, 25, of the Druze village Sajour, five counts of causing death through negligence, 50 counts of causing injury to passengers and a count of negligent driving. In addition to filing the indictment, the prosecution has asked to revoke Bahjat's driver's license immediately - at least until the end of the legal proceedings.

According to the indictment, as Bahjat was driving an Egged bus on the 361 route along the Acre-Safed Road he was engaged in a conversation with a female passenger who was sitting behind him, looking at her through the driver's mirror and therefore did not notice the truck parked at the side of the road. The indictment also says the truck was not moving and had the driver been concentrating sufficiently he would have been able to pass it easily without deviating from his lane.

"The field of vision was good," states the indictment, "and the driver could have been able to see what was happening ahead of him for a distance of at least 300 meters."

Attorney Basil Falah, who is representing Bahjat, said yesterday that his client denies what it attributed to him in the indictment and that the truck driver is to blame for the accident.

At the same time, Falah also noted a gap between the offenses attributed to this client at the start of the investigation, which also included manslaughter, and the offense of causing death through negligence that appears in the indictment now.