One killed, dozens hurt as bus carrying Israeli tourists flips over in South Korea

Foreign Ministry says 33 Israelis were on board, and at least seven were seriously injured in accident; driver said to blame gearbox malfuction for crash

A bus with Israeli tourists on board that flipped over on a road in South Korea, April 13, 2023. (Chungbuk Fire Service)
A bus with Israeli tourists on board that flipped over on a road in South Korea, April 13, 2023. (Chungbuk Fire Service)

A bus carrying dozens of Israeli tourists overturned in South Korea on Thursday, killing at least one passenger and injuring many of those on board.

According to the Foreign Ministry, a bus with 33 Israelis on board was involved in a traffic accident in Chungju, South Korea.

The ministry said that according to South Korean health officials, one Israeli woman was killed in the accident, two people were very seriously wounded, five were seriously hurt and the remainder of those on board were lightly injured.

Photos circulating of the incident showed the bus flipped onto its side on a thoroughfare.

According to the South Korean Yonhap news agency, the driver of the bus told police investigators that the crash was caused by a malfuction in the gearbox, and the bus stalled and rolled backwards after he was unable to shift gears. Eyewitnesses told the news agency that they saw the bus stop on a hill and then slide backwards before flipping over.

Those wounded were being treated at four hospitals in the area, the Foreign Ministry said.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said he spoke Thursday afternoon with Israeli Ambassador to South Korea Akiva Tor to offer all possible assistance to those wounded and their families and to express his gratitude to local medical teams.

Representatives from Israel’s Embassy in Seoul were visiting the wounded tourists at the hospitals where they were being treated, the Foreign Ministry said.

In a video message from one of the hospitals, Tor said the wounded are “receiving excellent care” from local medical professionals, and that the embassy and the Foreign Ministry are “working to bring everyone back to Israel in full health as soon as possible.”

A delegation of medical professionals and other experts funded by a group of travel insurance agents is slated to depart for South Korea on Thursday night in order to begin working to bring those who are lightly wounded back to Israel, and to judge the possibility of transfering those who are more seriously wounded.

According to local media reports, the bus was on its way from the southeastern city of Gyeongju to Suanbo, a hot spring village further north. Reports in both Israel and South Korea indicated that the passengers were Israelis in their 60s and 70s on an organized tour, and most of them were native Russian speakers.

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