Three Police Who Died in Carmel Fire Could Have Escaped but Stayed to Help

The three police officers who died in the Carmel fire had a path to safety but chose to remain at the scene of the burned-out Prison Service bus to help the victims, survivors have told investigators.

Bus Prison Service Tal Cohen
Tal Cohen

The three police officers killed were Brig. Gen. Ahuva Tomer, who headed the Haifa police, Chief Superintendent Yitzhak Malina and Brig. Gen. Lior Boker.

The testimony shows that they could have escaped in their police cruisers but chose to remain to help victims from the bus.

The prison staff on the bus had been making their way to evacuate prisoners from Damon Prison in the Carmel Forest.

About 180 of the 550 prisoners still remained in the facility, witnesses have said.

It was Boker who told the Prison Service bus to turn around after he encountered a wall of flames on the road leading to Damon Prison, witnesses have said.

Boker was joined in another police patrol car by Tomer and Malina, who was head of the traffic division of the coastal police region.

Testimony has been collected by a special investigation team from the Israel Police's Northern District.

Witnesses said the bus tried to turn around in a relatively narrow area of highway after encountering the flames, but was consumed by the fire.

The passengers fled but could not escape the blaze.

Boker and Malina died at the scene. Tomer, who sustained burns over most of her body, died in the hospital several days later.

The new testimony also should end speculation that Damon Prison was already empty when the bus was trying to reach the facility.

The prison was evacuated over an hour after the bus fire, according to the testimony.

All told, 43 people died in the blaze two weeks ago, from the Prison Service, police and fire service.