Galilee bus crash'I don't know how to bury four flowers next to each other'

Father who survived crash brought on stretcher to funeral of wife, 3 children

Reuven Ben-Eli arrives by ambulance at funeral for Moran, 35, Dekel, 15, Liam, 11, and Annael, 5, after being seriously injured in crash with bus

Reuven Ben-Eli, the father who was severely wounded in a traffic accident, arrives at the funeral of his wife and three children in Ma'alot-Tarshiha, on September 30, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Reuven Ben-Eli, the father who was severely wounded in a traffic accident, arrives at the funeral of his wife and three children in Ma'alot-Tarshiha, on September 30, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Four members of the Ben-Eli family, killed in a collision between their car and a bus in northern Israel on Wednesday, were laid to rest on Thursday in their hometown.

Hundreds attended the funeral for Moran Ben-Eli, 35, and her three children — Dekel, 15, Liam, 11, and Annael, 5 — held in the northern town of Ma’alot-Tarshiha.

Reuven Ben-Eli, Moran’s husband and the children’s father, who was in the car at the time of the crash and was hospitalized in serious condition, attended on a stretcher escorted by paramedics. He was told of his wife and children’s deaths Thursday morning when he woke up in Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, and was transported to the funeral by ambulance.

Bus driver Asher Basson, 76, was the fifth fatality of the accident, which involved multiple vehicles on Route 89 in the Upper Galilee, near the town of Hurfeish, on Wednesday afternoon. Close to 50 people were also injured in the crash.

As of Thursday evening, one person in serious condition was hospitalized at Rambam Medical Center, while two people in serious condition, one in moderate condition and 17 lightly injured were hospitalized at the Ziv Medical Center in Safed.

Speaking at the funeral, Moran Ben-Eli’s father described the “unimaginable loss” that had hit the extended family.

“I do not know how to bury four flowers next to each other,” he said, his voice breaking. “They were such a happy family. I don’t know how we will manage without them.”

Victims of a crash between a bus and multiple vehicles in the Upper Galilee on September 30, 2021, (from top left) Bus driver Asher Basson, Liam Ben-Eli, Moran Ben-Eli, Dekel Ben-Eli and Annael Ben-Eli.

Ma’alot-Tarshiha Mayor Arkady Pomerantz said on Wednesday that the entire city was “shocked and horrified by the unfathomable tragedy and terrible disaster… An entire family, the Ben-Eli family of Ma’alot-Tarshiha, has suddenly been taken from us.”

The municipality offered condolences and swift recovery to Reuven and said that Pomerantz “has instructed the municipality director-general to prepare immediately to provide a general municipal envelope in all aspects and to provide the family with all needed resources,” including social workers and psychologists who were already talking to relatives.

Basson, a resident of Kiryat Yam, is survived by a wife, four children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The bus was carrying pupils of the Bnei Akiva youth group back from a field trip held for the Sukkot holiday, and most of those injured were children from the group — the vast majority were lightly injured, though two children were in serious condition.

Eyewitnesses said on Wednesday that the crash occurred after the bus swerved from its lane for an unknown reason and hit several other vehicles.

Councilor Dvir Neria, 18, spoke to the Ynet news site from a Nahariya hospital: “We felt the bus accelerate for an unknown reason — maybe something hit it — and then we rolled over three or four times. It was crazy. I don’t know how my pupils and I are alive.”

The scene of a fatal accident between a bus and two vehicles on Route 89 in the northern Galilee, on September 29, 2021. (Eyal Merom/Ichud Hazala)

Pupil Yedidia Turman, who was lightly hurt, said: “We were talking on the bus and suddenly we heard three booms, we rolled over and it was very quick. All the windows shattered and fell.”

Another pupil, Lavi Stein, added: “There was crying, lots of blood, everyone was injured… After we got out through a hole in the bus, some [kids] called their parents.”

Police were investigating the cause of the crash.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who landed back in Israel Wednesday evening after a trip to the United States, said that he was devastated to hear of the accident, and “sends condolences and a warm embrace to the families of those killed during this difficult time.”

Bennett requested that the Israeli public “be extremely careful about cautious road travel.”

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