Court Extends Remand of Driver Suspected of Killing Eight in Dead Sea Crash

The charges against the driver will likely include obstruction of proceedings, manslaughter, driving under the influence of drugs and passing illegally on Route 90

The scene of the accident on Route 90.
Nati Shapira

A Be'er Sheva court on Sunday again extended the remand of the driver suspected of killing a family of eight in a crash on October 30 near the Dead Sea. The suspect, who is thought to have driven under the influence of marijuana, will be held in custody through November 11.

The Israel Police deny the driver's claim that he has a doctor’s prescription for medical cannabis.

At the Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court hearing, a representative of the police accused the suspect of obstructing the investigation and asked the court to extend his remand by eight more days.

To really understand Israel and the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz

The charges against the driver in the accident – in which eight members of the Atar family, from the West Bank settlement of Psagot, were killed – will likely include obstruction of proceedings as well as manslaughter, driving under the influence of drugs, and passing illegally on Route 90.

“This accident obliterated an entire family from the face of this earth,” said Judge Ron Sulkin at the hearing. He noted that there have been new developments since the first time the suspect’s remand was extended, which bolster the suspicions against him. These relate to the possibility that he had been using drugs and that he had allegedly committed traffic violations that led to the accident, Sulkin said, adding that the investigation is a complicated one.

The lawyer for the defense sought to cast part of the blame on the state of the road, on which yet another accident occurred on Sunday, in which six Palestinians were killed.

Although it is time for accident-prevention programs in the country to take non-human factors into account, Judge Sulkin said, the state of the road's infrastructure should not detract from the responsibility of the human element in such incidents. In this case, he added, there is significant evidence on which to base the suspicion that the accident was caused by the suspect’s grievous negligence and other factors.

Sulkin did suggest, however, that the state must establish an independent entity to investigate road accidents, not necessarily for catching suspects and putting them on trial, but for the purpose of identifying problems with the infrastructure, which are indeed a major cause of such deadly incidents.