Police Arrest Driver Believed Responsible for Fatal Fuel Slick

Police have arrested a Galilee man whose truck is suspected of leaking diesel fuel on a road in the north, causing a fuel slick that apparently led to the death of a husband and wife whose car flipped over on Route 90 in the Beit She'an Valley on Saturday.

The Nazareth Magistrate's Court extended the remand of Riyan Khaku, a 55-year-old truck driver from Kafr Kama, by eight days yesterday. He was arrested Saturday night on suspicion of leaving the scene of the fuel leak without reporting the incident or doing anything to clean it up.

"We located the truck driver who was at the scene of the accident," said Superintendent Shimon Ben-Sabo, who heads the police traffic unit that covers the area where the accident occurred. "The details we have indicate that he stood there with his truck about an hour before the accident took place, trying to fix a flat in one of the truck's tires. At the same time, diesel fuel apparently leaked from the truck."

Police suspect that cars driving on the road afterward spread the gas around, increasing the size of the fuel slick.

However, Khaku says no diesel leaked at the site.

Khaku, who was driving northward Saturday with a truck full of saline water, stopped on the side of Route 90 about 90 minutes before the accident took place, because of a flat tire. Police are investigating whether the truck's secondary fuel tank was damaged, causing the gas to leak.

"The driver has no idea what they want from him," said Khaku's lawyer, Hanna Atad. "This is someone who has been a truck driver for 30 years with only a few traffic offenses, just like any driver of a private vehicle in Israel. This is the craziest case I have encountered in the 30 years I've been in the field. There was no leak from his truck. He says if he had seen a diesel fuel stain, even one that he didn't cause, he would have reported it immediately. The police don't have anything - they arrested the wrong man."

Police located the truck in Kibbutz Degania Bet, where Khaku works, several hours after the accident, after witnesses provided a general description of the truck. Police impounded the truck and sent it for testing.

Moshav Yardena residents Simhoni Yehuda, 52, and his wife Esther Yehuda, 50, were killed around 6 P.M. Saturday. Their car drove over the fuel slick, slid, and struck an oncoming vehicle, police said. The couple's 26-year-old daughter Nufar Yehuda, who was driving, escaped with slight injuries.

The couple was buried in the Moshav Yardena cemetery yesterday.

Nufar Yehuda called on the person responsible for the fuel on the road to be punished for causing the accident.

"I remember that I drove at a speed of maybe 100 kilometers an hour, and suddenly the car slid onto the other lane and I tried to take control, and I said to Dad: 'Dad, look, the car is sliding.' Dad tried to help me gain control of the vehicle, but we hit an oncoming car and flew into a ditch. I only woke up in the ambulance."

A family of four from Moshav Nehemia - a man, a woman and their two daughters, aged 12 and 4 - were in the oncoming car. The parents were seriously injured and the girls were lightly hurt.

"There was a stain [on the road] caused by a person, and the person who caused it killed my parents and made me an orphan, without a mother or father," said Yehuda. "One person is responsible. He was the one who caused my parents to die. He will be punished, because he should have cleaned it up and reported it, but he didn't do so, causing two people who are dear to many others to be killed."