A man allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs killed a 13-year-old boy and injured another youth in Tel Aviv late Friday night after swerving onto a traffic island and hitting them.
The boy killed was identified as Eilon Shalev Amsalem. The driver who ran him over is Eliyahu Bar-Zakkai, who was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. The 23-year-old driver also hit another youth, who sustained moderate injuries.
The accident took place at about 1 A.M. at a bend on a north Tel Aviv street, near the Kochav Hatzafon neighborhood. The police investigation showed that the driver drove over the traffic island, hitting the two youths who were standing on the sidewalk. Magen David Adom paramedics said they found the two lying in the street and evacuated the seriously wounded youth to Ichilov Hospital.
Preliminary tests on the driver at the scene showed alcohol levels that were double the legal limit. After failing the breathalyzer test the suspect did a urine test at a police station, in which drug residue was also found. The suspect refused to take a test to determine his blood alcohol levels (making him a suspect for driving under the influence). The police also claim that according to the damage to his car and other clues still being investigated, the man was driving at an unreasonable speed. The driver argued in his defense that a ruptured water pipe made the road wet, which led to the accident.
The driver was brought to a court hearing in Tel Aviv, after which the judge ordered him to be put under house arrest. The suspect has a record of traffic violations including excessive speed, straddling lanes and dangerous overtaking. The police requested six days’ remand but the judge emphasized that police investigations do not require the driver’s detention. The police asked for a stay, leaving the driver in detention until Sunday.
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Despite ordering house arrest, Judge Shamai Becker said that “when the day comes, if things are as they seem, the court will hold the suspect accountable for the intolerable capriciousness with which he took a life. The court expresses its deep sorrow at the killing of this youth and the wounding of his friend.”
The suspect’s lawyer, Eilon Oron, said, “The court wanted to release my client, saying that there was no reason to detain him because of the grave result. You don’t detain someone as punishment or to appease public anger. Since the police appealed, the judge canceled his decision and all his nice words, leaving my client under detention until Sunday. I doubt there will be another appeal. The man is not at fault for the accident, it was caused by a ruptured water line on a hot day and a dry road. This led to his losing control over the car. This could have happened to any other driver. One has to later look into how the city monitors its infrastructure. He tried to blow into the breathalyzer and couldn’t due to the trauma, but that’s not related to the accident itself.”
Amsalem had chosen not to join his family on a trip to Thailand, where the parents were when they received the news of his death. The parents returned to Israel on Saturday. The victim was the son of Kobi Amsalem, formerly the Supervisor of Wages at the Finance Ministry.
According to the National Road Safety Authority 170 people have been killed on the roads since the beginning of 2018, compared to 229 in the same period last year. Fifty-one of the fatal victims were pedestrians.