Drunk Driver Gets 16 Years for Killing 6

A man whose reckless driving caused the death of six people in a car crash in March 2007 was sentenced yesterday to 16 years in jail by the Tel Aviv District Court. He was also given four years probation, and his driver's license was permanently revoked.

In May, the court convicted Yaron Bracha, 29, of manslaughter for the deaths of six people, including his twin brother, in a road accident that took place near Lod. Bracha, who was driving at the time of the accident, ran a red light at 171 kilometers per hour - double the speed limit - and crashed into another car. After the accident, his blood and urine samples tested positive for cocaine, marijuana and three times the legal blood alcohol level, police said.

The car he crashed into was driven by Moshe Ben Gigi, an Egged bus driver, and four of Ben Gigi's fellow drivers - Yitzhak Cohen, Aharon Benishi, Michael Kashpur and Yona David - were riding in it. Bracha, who was seriously injured in the crash, was the accident's only survivor.

"It was shocking. It looked like a war zone," said Yonatan Keinan, a Magen David Adom paramedic who witnessed the accident. "I've been working for MDA for six years; I've dealt with innumerable accidents. But I can't remember another accident this shocking."

After the judge read out the sentence, a vocal argument erupted between Bracha's family and the families of the crash victims. Mali Bracha yelled that the court had "taken her boy." Israel Prison Service personnel said Bracha spat at the victims' relatives when they approached him on the way out of the courthouse.

"This is a sentence dictated by the media," Bracha's attorney, Ayalon Oron, said after the sentencing. "The man committed a crime, but he was savagely penalized. Demonstrating cruelty toward the family will achieve nothing. The sentence is another catastrophe, and at the end of the day, the man did not kill six times, but only once."

Judge Edna Kaplan addressed the keen media interest in the affair in her verdict, in which she wrote: "It is not the media that is breathing down the court's neck, but the victims' outcry as it is heard in the courthouse, along with the cries of the defendant's parents, who lament their loss."

She added that the sentence took into account the need to deter other drivers who might drive under the influence of drugs. "The sentence clarifies that if they set out on their journey in the same way as the defendant did, they stand to pay a heavy price for doing so," she wrote.