Three Victims of Carmel Fire Could Have Escaped, Police Report Finds

Eyewitnesses say police who entered blazing forest in order to try rescue a trapped bus of prison guards could have driven out but chose to stay.

Three police officers who were killed in the Carmel forest fire two weeks ago when they tried to assist a bus of Prison Service guards that was caught in the flames, could have rescued themselves, but rather chose to stay behind, a police report about the deadly incident revealed on Wednesday.

Carmel fire, bus - Yaron Kaminsky - Dec. 2, 2010
Yaron Kaminsky

Haifa Police chief Ahuva Tomer was driving behind the bus that burned up in the flames with police officer Lior Boker, who was head of police operations for Israel's northern region and Yitzhak Melina.

Over 17,000 residents, including 600 prison inmates, were evacuated as the blaze raged out of control, devastating hundreds of acres of pine forest before sweeping down the slopes of the Carmel plateau in the deadliest and largest forest fire in Israel's history.

The report, based on eyewitness testimonies gathered by special police investigation unit established after the deadly incident, claimed that Boker was the officer who instructed the bus driver to turn the bus around, instead of continuing and perhaps evading the flames.

When a fallen tree blocked the road, the bus was trapped in the flames. 43 people were killed in the blaze.

The investigation unit also reported that 12 of the 37 prison guards who were killed in the fire died of heat stroke and not from the actual fire.