One of the Israeli tourists injured in a deadly traffic collision in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula claimed Friday that local medics initially refused to treat the Israelis at the scene and demanded they pay upfront for an ambulance to transfer them to Israel.
Two Israelis were killed and five injured when a taxi van carrying youth counselors returning from a beachside vacation smashed into another car while speeding toward the Taba border crossing Thursday.
“The treatment of the Egyptians was very bad,” said Na’ama Banon, one of the seven Jerusalem boarding school counselors who were in the taxi van.
Two of her friends — Yuval Keshet, 24, from Haifa, and Moshe Matan Luzon, 25, from Petah Tikva — were killed; Banon and the others suffered injuries ranging from minor to moderate.
Banon spoke with reporters from an Israeli hospital a day after the crash. She recalled that the driver had played Hebrew songs for them before she dozed off. She was awoken by the loud crash just 20 minutes from the border.
Banon said rescuers first treated the Egyptian driver before attempting to pull out injured Israelis trapped in the wreckage.
“They preferred to put the driver first,” she recounted.
She said staff at a clinic in the Egyptian coastal town of Nuweiba, where they were initially brought, refused to let them use a phone to contact Israel’s Foreign Ministry for assistance. Eventually, one staffer agreed to open a hotspot from his phone and the Israeli group managed to update their families as well as the Israeli authorities.
During this time, doctors at the clinic declared Keshet and Luzon dead. Their funerals were expected to take place over the weekend.
When ambulances arrived at the clinic to transfer the group to the border, they demanded payment ahead of time. The young tourists didn’t have cash on them, but an Israeli couple at the scene agreed to pay 1,200 Egyptian pounds ($63) for each of the evacuees, Banon said.
She claimed Egyptian authorities demanded that the Israeli group sign documents abdicating the government of responsibility for what happened before they could go.
Banon recounted being dragged with her friends to a local court “when we were wounded and mentally broken” in order to sign the documents before they were transferred to the border.
Banon’s account could not be immediately corroborated. Egyptian authorities were unavailable for comment.
According to Hebrew media reports, Israel Defense Forces helicopters were initially sent to assist in bringing the injured to hospitals in Israel. However, Cairo would not allow the helicopters to land inside Egypt, delaying the Israelis’ return by several hours.
The father of one of the injured Israelis told Kan news on Thursday that his daughter had accused the driver of reckless speeding ahead of the crash.
“The driver was traveling at a crazy speed, overtook [another vehicle], and crashed into an oncoming car,” he told Kan, citing his daughter.
موقع "سروجيم" العبري: إصابة سبعة "إسرائيليين" من بينهم اثنين بحالة حرجة جراء حادث طرق في سيناء. pic.twitter.com/HA7fNIUr4q
— وكالة شهاب للأنباء (@ShehabAgency) July 28, 2022
Traffic accidents kill thousands every year in Egypt, which has a poor transportation safety record.
Earlier this month, 23 people were killed when a passenger bus slammed into a parked trailer truck on a highway in southern Egypt.
In January, at least 16 people were killed and 18 others injured when a minibus collided with a public transportation bus in the Sinai Peninsula. In April last year, a bus overturned while trying to pass a truck on a highway in the southern province of Assiut, leaving at least 21 people dead and three others injured.
In 2006, 12 Israelis were killed and many others injured in a Sinai road accident. Some of the victims’ families claimed it was a terror attack and that the driver deliberately crashed the vehicle.