Bus Driver Charged After Crash Kills Four People, Wounds 14 in Central Israel

Driver denies using cellphone at the wheel, police say they do not think he was drunk ■ Company says driver had valid license and bus in proper condition

Bar Peleg
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
The scene of a bus crash near Ben-Gurion International Airport on December 22, 2019.
The scene of a bus crash near Ben-Gurion International Airport on December 22, 2019.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Bar Peleg

The driver of a bus that crashed into a bus stop near Ben-Gurion International Airport on Sunday, killing four people and injuring 14 more, was arrested Monday morning and charged with involuntary manslaughter.

According to police, the driver, Alexander Leibman, 44, of Haifa, was questioned throughout Sunday night. He denied using his cellphone while behind the wheel, and blood samples were taken, in keeping with procedure in an accident with injuries, that will show whether he was under the influence of alcohol, although police say they do not believe he was drunk.

The fatal victims were Yosef Kahalani, 79, of Petah Tikva, and three women about 30, 50 and 60 years of age. Sheba Hospital, Tel Hashomer said two of the injured passengers are still hospitalized, one in serious condition and one slightly injured. Another passenger also slightly injured and is hospitalized at Assaf Harofeh Hospital, Tzrifin. The rest have been released.

Egged, the company that owns the bus, said it was confident police would “investigate and reach findings and conclusions as to the direct and indirect reasons for this terrible accident.” The company said the driver had a valid license and the bus was in proper condition and had undergone all required maintenance.

Roi Baron, the attorney representing the driver, said, “Egged greatly regrets the severe accident and the loss of life. The investigation is underway and I am not relating to the details beyond this.”

Leibman was driving on line 947 from Jerusalem to Haifa when the accident occurred on Route 40 near Bedek Junction. Police said he lost control of the bus for unknown reasons, struck a bus stop and the bus rolled down into a field. The four people killed were trapped under concrete beams the bus collided with. They were dead when firefighters extricated them from the wreckage.

Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court extended Leibman’s detention until Thursday, when he will be released to house arrest.