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Galilee bus crash

‘They made him out to be a murderer’: Bus driver involved in fatal crash buried

Family, friends defend Asher Basson, who allegedly drove dangerously ahead of deadly collision and reportedly had dozens of driving convictions in his 55 years on the road

The scene of a fatal accident between a bus and two vehicles on Route 89 in the northern Galilee, September 29, 2021. Insert: Asher Basson. (Eyal Merom / United Hazala, courtesy)
The scene of a fatal accident between a bus and two vehicles on Route 89 in the northern Galilee, September 29, 2021. Insert: Asher Basson. (Eyal Merom / United Hazala, courtesy)

The bus driver whose vehicle swerved this week in northern Israel, causing a fatal crash, was buried Friday, with some mourners pushing back against claims he had been driving dangerously and had dozens of previous convictions

“A devoted father, a hard-working man who did everything with devotion. We say goodbye to you in a way we did not imagine would happen,” Asher Basson’s son, Ido, said during the burial service on Friday, the Ynet news site reported.

“They made a murderer out of him, he drove for 50 years and did not have any accidents. It was not his fault, it was not his fault, he tried to save the children,” an unknown participant cried out.

Basson, 76, had allegedly been driving dangerously on purpose in an attempt to keep the group of teenagers he was transporting quiet, a bus passenger claimed Thursday.

Five people were killed and nearly 50 were injured in the collision between the bus and multiple vehicles on Route 89 in the Upper Galilee, near the town of Hurfeish on Wednesday

The fatalities include a woman and her three children: Moran Ben-Eli, 35, and kids Dekel (15), Liam (11) and Annael (5).

Victims of a crash between a bus and multiple vehicles in the Upper Galilee on September 30, 2021, from top left: Bus driver Asher Basson, Liam Ben-Eli, Moran Ben-Eli, Dekel Ben-Eli and Annael Ben-Eli.

The family’s father, Reuven Ben-Eli, 36, was seriously injured in the crash and is being treated at Rambam hospital in Haifa, where he gained consciousness on Thursday and received the grim news about the death of his wife and three children.

The fifth fatality in the accident was Basson.

An initial probe Thursday concluded that the crash occurred after the bus swerved from its lane for an unknown reason and hit the side of a van. It then hit another vehicle before colliding head-on with the taxi that was carrying the Ben-Eli family. The bus tipped over on its side, causing a roadblock that lasted for hours.

Hebrew reports said that Basson had 51 previous driving convictions in his 55 years on the road, mostly for minor offenses but also including running red lights — most recently in 2017 — and seven speeding tickets, the last of which was received 20 years ago.

The scene of a serious accident between a bus and two cars on Route 89 in the northern Galilee, September 29, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Police are investigating whether the bus swerved from its lane due to a technical malfunction, a human error or a medical issue.

The Ynet news site reported that police sources have noted that testimonies from the bus passengers were being used in the probe.

The bus had been transporting dozens of teenagers from the Bnei Akiva youth group back from a Sukkot field trip. Two of them were in serious condition while the majority were lightly injured.

Bnei Akiva counselor Dvir Neria, 18, told Ynet that Basson had been angry about the noise caused by the teenagers, asking several times for quiet and occasionally accelerating or slowing down suddenly to shut them up.

“There were swervings, but we didn’t think anything wasn’t okay,” Neria said. “There was talking, singing and a bit of noise and mayhem — students having fun, after all — and that really bothered the driver. He got annoyed and asked for quiet, so they stopped for a bit and then continued. There were parts where he would suddenly slam the brakes or accelerate so they would be quiet.”

The scene of a serious accident between a bus and two cars on Route 89 in the northern Galilee, September 29, 2021 (David Cohen/Flash90)

Asked whether Basson was trying to send messages to the passengers using his driving, Neria said: “Yes.”

Neria, who himself was injured in the accident and hospitalized, said he believed Bnei Akiva coordinators had spoked to Basson about his driving, “but I don’t know because I didn’t hear; I was with my students and was more focused on them.”

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