Hundreds attend funerals of family of 8 killed in car crash

Friend of Atar family recalls going to their home after deadly head-on collision near Dead Sea: ‘I arrived at the door you know no one will open’

The Atar family, killed in a car crash near the Dead Sea on October 30, 2018. (Courtesy)
The Atar family, killed in a car crash near the Dead Sea on October 30, 2018. (Courtesy)

Hundreds of people on Wednesday attended the funerals of eight family members killed a day earlier in a head-on collision 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 Tuesday on Route 90.

The funerals for the family, who lived in the West Bank settlement of Psagot, were held at the cemetery in the coastal city of Netanya.

“We still have not comprehended the enormity of this disaster — an entire family, six children and their parents killed,” Kati Orezi, an adviser at the school in Psagot, was quoted as saying by Hadashot TV news.

A friend of the family recalled Yariv and Shoshi Atar as “wonderful people” who were devoted to their children.

“Yesterday I arrived at the door you know no one will open. You see a closed door that says ‘Atar family,’ and there is no more Atar family. This is a very difficult loss for our community,” said a friend, Reuben Pinsky, according to the Walla news site.

Yariv and Shoshi Atar, killed in a car crash near the Dead Sea on October 30, 2018. (Courtesy)

The Binyamin Regional Council, where Psagot is located, earlier said psychologists had been sent to the local elementary school to speak with students and have them share memories of the Atar family, four of whom were students at the school.

The regional council also said a memorial wall for the family was set up at the school.

Earlier on Wednesday, the driver of the second car in the collision was kept in custody by a Beersheba court on suspicion of manslaughter. He is believed to have been driving while under the influence of drugs.

The 52-year-old man was ordered held for six more days, as it came to light that he had a record of more than 20 traffic offenses. The judge acceded to the request of the defendant’s lawyer that he not be publicly identified.

“The suspicion of manslaughter is based, among other things, on findings that raise suspicions that the suspect used drugs,” Judge Zvi Furer wrote in his decision, adding that the suspect was cooperating with investigators, the Ynet news site reported.

The judge added, “We do not often encounter such fatal accidents. I would not wish for anyone to be in this man’s position.”

Lawyers for the defendant said their client was devastated by what had happened and noted that he is disabled.

Emergency workers from ZAKA at the scene of a deadly head-on collision on Route 90 near the Dead Sea on October 30, 2018. (ZAKA)

The arrested man was driving the second vehicle in the collision, an SUV. Two other people in his car suffered moderate and light injuries and were taken to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.

“The driver is bruised, injured and confused. He was questioned while his daughter was anesthetized and breathing through a ventilator. At this stage it isn’t clear who is to blame for the accident. He does not remember exactly what happened and we hope the police will investigate quickly,” his lawyers were quoted as saying by Channel 10 news.

Immediately following the crash, the driver reportedly said, “I killed them, I’m not driving anymore.”

Police did not explicitly state what caused the crash, which was met with calls to bolster safety measures on the stretch of Route 90 where it occurred, which has seen other deadly crashes in the past.

Investigators believe the driver of the SUV may have strayed into the opposite lane, according to Hebrew media reports.

Scene of deadly crash on Route 90 near the Dead Sea, October 30, 2018. (Courtesy MDA)

The Transportation Ministry told Hebrew media that Tuesday’s crash was the deadliest to ever take place on the stretch of road.

The accident came as hundreds of thousands of Israelis were enjoying a day off for local elections taking place across the country.

A representative for the company maintaining the road told the Ynet news site that work was recently done to expand the shoulders and repaint lines.

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.

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