Soccer player indicted in hit-and-run that killed teen cyclist

Yitzhak Asefs charged with drunk driving, abandoning the scene of a crime, obstructing justice for leaving Ari Nesher and another boy lying in the road after hitting their bike

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israeli Premier League soccer player Itzhak Asefa, seen during a hearing at the Tel Aviv District Court, October 24, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israeli Premier League soccer player Itzhak Asefa, seen during a hearing at the Tel Aviv District Court, October 24, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prosecutors filed an indictment Wednesday against an Israeli soccer player who is accused of speeding into a pair of teenagers riding an electric bicycle while he was under the influence of alcohol, leaving them lying in the road as he made his escape, and then trying to cover up his involvement in the collision by repairing the damage to the car and lying to police.

Seventeen-year-old Ari Nesher, the son of acclaimed Israeli film director Avi Nesher, was seriously injured in the September 24 accident and succumbed to his wounds four days later. Police have accused a 16-year-old teen, whose name has not been released, of carrying Nesher as a second passenger on the bike, swerving into the car’s path, and riding without a helmet.

Yitzhak Asefa, a soccer player on the Israel Premier League’s F.C. Ashdod team, was charged at the Tel Aviv District Court with drunk driving, abandoning the scene of a crime, obstructing justice, and other offenses, the Justice Ministry said in a statement. Significantly, the indictment did not say he was responsible for Nesher’s death.

“Immediately after the accident, the defendant transferred the Kia vehicle [he was driving] to a garage, in a manner that would have prevented the locating of the vehicle, and led to the destruction of major evidence in the case,” the indictment said.

Director Avi Nesher (left), with his son, Ari and wife, Iris. Ari Nesher, 17, died September 27, 2018, after being seriously injured in a hit-and-run accident on September 24. (Courtesy Rafi Delouya)

According to the indictment, Asefa, 20, began the evening at the Lighthouse club in Tel Aviv, where he was celebrating a friend’s birthday. Together with three others, he consumed three bottles of vodka before the group left to go to another party.

At around 3:35 a.m., Asefa, who was alone in the car, was driving along Rokach Boulevard at 75 kilometers per hour (46 mph), though the permitted speed is 50 kph (31 mph).

Nesher and his friend were cycling at around 25 kph. When Asefa’s car was about 15 meters behind them, the bicycle swerved into his path and he hit them. The force of the collision threw Nesher 23 meters (75 feet) down the road, prosecutors said.

“After the accident and despite the outcome, the accused continued on his journey, and a few seconds later screeched to a halt before the junction between Rokach and Ibn Gabirol,” the court papers said.

He waited there a short while, then continued moving slowly forward, stopped again and then drove away “without realizing the consequences of the accident or extending any help to the deceased and to the minor who were lying injured at the spot,” the indictment said.

While still driving the car, Asefa allegedly made four phone calls to a friend, during which he said he thought there was a problem with the wheel of the car and then that he “hit someone and continued driving.”

Screen capture from video of a fatal hit-and-run road accident in Tel Aviv, September 24, 2018. (YouTube)

Later that evening, Asefa asked his friend to call the Eldan rental car company and tell them that the Kia car had been in an accident and asked for a tow truck to take it to a garage to be repaired, “with the intention of preventing or obstructing a judicial proceeding,” prosecutors wrote.

At some point during the night, he returned to the scene of the accident with his friend and found the police there with bits of the car scattered in the road.

“Despite that, the accused did not approach the police at the scene,” and instead returned to wait for the tow truck to arrive at Ibn Gabirol Street, where the car was parked.

At 5:20 a.m., police arrived looking for the car, which had been spotted leaving the scene of the accident. When they saw the damage to Asefa’s car, they asked him to explain it and he lied, telling them it the car was damaged while it was parked on Ibn Gabirol and he was at the club. He even claimed that a friend of his had been driving it, the indictment said.

“It should be noted that regarding the minor who was involved in the accident, a decision has yet to be made and his case is being reviewed by the prosecution,” the Justice Ministry said.

Last week, Channel 10 news reported that prosecutors were preparing to indict the teen cyclist who was carrying Nesher on the bike and who was also injured in the incident.

Earlier this month, Israel Police spokesperson Merav Lapidot told Army Radio that the teen was responsible for Nesher’s death.

“If he hadn’t swerved from his path, Ari would be alive today,” Lapidot said, noting that it is illegal to carry passengers on an electric bike.

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