The driver of a bus that struck and killed a mother and her two daughters in north Jerusalem on Thursday night told police interrogators on Friday that he had accidentally triggered the release of the brakes while trying to fix a malfunction.
The bus proceeded to swerve off of Shamgar street and into a bus stop where nearly a dozen people had been standing. In addition to the three people who were killed, nine others were injured, including a woman in her 20s who was in very serious condition and a woman in her 40s, a four-year-old boy and a nine-month-old baby who were all in moderate condition.
Police tried interrogating the driver shortly after the accident late Thursday night but he was too hysterical over what had happened and officers decided to bring him back for questioning on Friday.
During the interrogation, the driver of Route 402 from Bnei Brak to Jerusalem said the trunk of the bus wasn’t closing and he decided to pull over near the final stop and have all of the passengers exit the bus so he could take care of the problem.
The driver himself got off the bus as well in order to inspect the issue. Shortly thereafter, the bus began rolling forward, with the driver explaining that he had apparently accidentally hit an emergency mechanism that automatically released the breaks.
He also said that shortly before the crash, he reported the malfunction to his superiors at the Egged bus company, according to unsourced Hebrew media reports.
Security camera footage appeared to back the account of the driver, showing the bus swerve toward the unassuming pedestrians on Shamgar Street with its trunk still open.
Egged accident inspector Freddy Hershkowitz told the Kan public broadcaster Friday that the bus underwent its monthly inspection hours before the crash and that no issues were identified. Still, he noted that the driver has 18 years of experience and had not incurred a single traffic violation in the last five years.
The driver — a resident of Beersheba — was questioned under caution on suspicion of negligent homicide and subsequently released to a five-day house arrest.
The crash’s three victims were identified as Shoshana Glustein, 40, of Ofakim, along with her two daughters Chaya Sara, 7, and Chana, 3. The mother was also pregnant but doctors were unable to save the baby either.
Their funeral was held on Friday afternoon in Jerusalem, with hundreds in attendance.
Eulogizing his loved ones, Shoshana’s widowed husband Rabbi Dov Glustein said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Everyone has their own time that they should be here in this world.”
“The fact that we are now crying is a mistake,” he continued, “We received mom for a limited period of time, and we received Sarah and Chan[a] for a limited period of time and it wasn’t meant to be more than that. We are thankful for the wonderful years that God blessed us with a family that supports us from all directions. If Shoshana could, she would ask to donate to charity so that we may be blessed with the coming of the Messiah in our days, Amen.”
Prime Minister Yair Lapid offered his condolences to the Glustein family after the accident, saying: “My heart breaks for you. May you never know sorrow again.”
Fourteen people were killed in traffic accidents in the past week alone. Earlier Friday, two bus drivers — Yoav Hidri and Hanoch Talker, were struck and killed by oncoming vehicles when they crossed Route 4 near the Yad Mordechai intersection near Ashkelon in order to help the victims of another accident.