IDF opens fresh probe into teenage recruit’s death during a tryout in 2019

After military’s first investigation found to have overlooked key areas of the incident, army chief orders review of case in which Ron Oved, 18, was killed

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Ron Eliyahu Oved, right, and his father. Oved was killed in an accident during a tryout for the IDF Paratroopers Brigade on April 11, 2019. (Courtesy of the family)
Ron Eliyahu Oved, right, and his father. Oved was killed in an accident during a tryout for the IDF Paratroopers Brigade on April 11, 2019. (Courtesy of the family)

The Israel Defense Forces announced Monday it was launching a fresh investigation into the death of a teenage recruit, Ron Oved, who was killed when a bus rolled into his tent during a tryout for the Paratroopers Brigade in 2019.

The new probe — the IDF’s third into the incident — came after the Military Police completed its investigation into Oved’s death and shortly after the Haaretz newspaper published a report on the matter, which accused the military of failing to adequately look into the case.

On April 11, 2019, a bus that was parked on an incline above the tents in which a group of recruits were sleeping — in clear violation of IDF protocol — rolled down the hill into the structure, killing Oved, 18, and injuring five others.

The military’s initial investigation, which was completed within two months, blamed Oved’s death squarely on the bus driver and the company who hired him, deeming the incident a vehicular accident, rather than a training accident.

No one in the military was punished over the incident. The bus driver was charged with negligent manslaughter last September.

According to IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman, the Military Police probe found that the initial investigation had focused solely on the events immediately preceding the accident, rather than the full picture of what transpired during the tryout, specifically overlooking the first day, in which safety protocols were supposed to have been discussed but apparently were not.

The scene after an empty bus rolled and hit a group of young Israelis while they were attending tryouts for a military unit, April 11, 2019, near Kibbutz Shomria (Screen capture via Channel 12)

In light of these findings and “new facts” uncovered during the Military Police investigation, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi ordered a fresh probe of the case, which will be led by Brig. Gen. Ilan Sabag, the IDF’s outgoing chief combat engineering officer, the military said.

This investigation will determine if the commanders of the tryout abided by the necessary safety procedures before the accident and why this crucial issue was not properly checked in the initial investigation, which was led by the commander of the Paratroopers Brigade base at the time, Lt. Col. Eliav Elbaz.

This new probe was tasked with “completing the review of the case and determining why some of the facts did not come to light during the initial investigation,” the IDF said.

Kohavi informed Oved’s father, a lieutenant colonel in the reserves, about his decision on Sunday.

The Military Police’s findings were handed over to IDF Military Advocate General Sharon Afek’s office, in order to determine whether he will press charges against any of the people involved.

Oved, from Kibbutz Palmachim in central Israel, was trying out for the exclusive Paratroopers Brigade, a process known in Hebrew as a gibush, outside the outfit’s main training base in the northern Negev.

The empty vehicle, which was owned and operated by a civilian company, had been parked nearby and the driver was outside when it suddenly began rolling toward the tents. Some of the recruits managed to run away, while others were hit.

A lawyer for the driver said he had gone to use the bathroom and left the bus parked using the handbrake but the bus gears were set to “drive.”

“The driver claims that he does not remember changing gear,” explained attorney Raz Keren Yehoshua. “The bus was running, he started it a few minutes earlier for the soldiers to board. When he was in the bathroom, he heard shouts and saw the bus.”

The driver was charged with negligent manslaughter, reckless driving, causing an accident that caused serious harm, and leaving a motor vehicle unattended.

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