The Lod District Court on Wednesday sentenced Yonatan Vaadya to six years’ imprisonment for causing the fatal train accident in Beit Yehoshua in June 2006 that killed five people and injured 81.
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The court also revoked his driver’s license for 25 years from the day he is released from prison and ordered him to pay 50,000 shekels ($13,235) to the family of each person killed.
Vaadya, a veterinarian, was convicted of five counts of manslaughter, causing serious injury, driving while intoxicated and driving negligently, using drugs, and illegal use of prescription drugs. According to the indictment, Vaadya caused three accidents on June 12, 2006, while driving under the influence of drugs he had prescribed for himself.
In the first accident he hit a private car, causing minor damage. He then hit a different car in a collision that pushed his car onto the train tracks in the path of an oncoming train. While witnesses managed to pull Vaadya out of the car in time, the train, which was full of passengers, hit his vehicle. As a result, three train cars derailed and five people were killed.
The father of one of the victims, Lior Albala, testified at the sentencing hearing, describing, “the loss, the distress and the void left when our son was taken from us.” Three other families submitted crime victim statements.
Prosecutor Or Maimon told the court that, given all the circumstances, including safety flaws contributing to the crash that were Israel Railways’ responsibility, Vaadya should be sentenced to 10 to 14 years in prison.
Vaadya’s lawyer, Eitan Maoz, argued that the contribution of Israel Railways to the accident had to be considered and that Vaadya had not driven onto the tracks deliberately, but “got stuck” there and couldn’t move his car. Moreover, Maoz said, the length of the legal proceedings must also be taken into account, adding that Vaadya had stopped driving, stopped working in his profession and no longer tooke prescription drugs improperly.
He asked the court not to sentence him to prison at all.
Judge Varda Meroz sentenced Vaadya to six years, citing the ‘unfortunate series of events that could have been prevented, ending in a serious tragedy, destruction and loss of life.” She added that Vaadya, “was well aware of the effects of the drugs he took,” and had “consciously put himself in a condition of intoxication when he chose to drive” after taking them.
Maoz called the verdict “totally erroneous” and said he planned to appeal both the conviction and the sentence to the Supreme Court.