A driver who was involved in a deadly head-on collision that killed an entire family of eight last year was convicted of manslaughter on Tuesday, as part of a plea bargain. As part of the deal, the prosecution will seek a sentence of up to 13 years in prison.
Laurent Ankri, 52, from Giv’on Hahadasha was driving an SUV when the vehicle apparently drifted into the opposite lane and smashed into a minivan coming in the other direction along Route 90 near the Dead Sea.
The entire Atar family — Yariv Atar, 45, and his wife Shoshi, 47, and their children Yaakov Yisrael, 12, Ateret, 11, Ayelet, 9, Moriah, 7, Yedid, 5, and Avigail, 3 — was killed in the crash.
The family lived in the West Bank settlement of Psagot.
Ankri said he was blinded by the sun, causing him to veer into oncoming traffic.
The minivan carrying the Atar family ignited following the accident and some of the dead were killed in the blaze, according to rescuers. By the time firefighters managed to extinguish the flaming car, the trapped passengers had died.
As part of the deal, an accusation against Ankri of of driving under the influence of cannabis was removed from the list of charges. Police found cannabis in Ankri’s car after the crash and he was subjected to a blood test. He reportedly admitted to smoking medical marijuana prior to the crash.
However, Channel 12 news reported last year that there were multiple flaws in the initial investigation into the crash — in one case, a police officer took Ankri’s blood test home instead of taking it directly to the laboratory as is required.
Route 90, Israel’s longest highway, runs along the eastern boundary from Metula in the north to Eilat in the south, passing through the West Bank’s Jordan Valley. Most of the road is decades old and currently consists of only one lane in each direction, with no divider. Its length and characteristics have made it one of the country’s deadliest routes.
According to Channel 13 news, 133 people have been killed on Route 90 over the last decade — an average of one death per month. Last week, two sisters aged 4 and 7 were killed in a head-on collision on the road in the southern Arava region.
A Transportation Ministry plan announced last year will see the road expanded to two lanes in each direction with an option to add a third lane on some sections of the 480-kilometer route.
The budget for the expansion, however, has faced delays.