JERUSALEM (Aug. 3)
Israel has joined Kibbutz Heftziba in mourning the deaths of nine kibbutz youngsters and one older member in one of the worst road tragedies in recent history here. Just hours before the funeral of last Thursday’s crash victims, the Cabinet announced it would hold a full-scale debate on the scourge of road accidents during its weekly Sunday meeting.
The 10 were killed after a kibbutz van, bringing the youngsters back from a seaside vacation, smashed into a huge semitrailer Thursday evening on a road in the Lower Galilee. The smaller vehicle, totally demolished, was hurled to the side of the road where it hit a tree and burst into flames.
By the time rescue squads arrived, some 20 minutes later. all that was left of the group were the charred bodies of the youngsters and the 35-year-old driver, and one boy– severely injured — who died on the way to the hospital in Afula.
There were heart-rending scenes at the kibbutz and at Afula’s hospital, as relatives and friends were require to identify the burnt and mangled corpses. “Words canna express our feelings, and no words can comfort,” wrote President Chaim Herzog Friday, in a cable to the grieving settlement.
GOVERNMENT COMES UNDER FIRE
The accident touched off criticism of the government for attaching low priority to the prevention of accidents. Experts noted that while road-accident figures seemed to decline during 1984-85, there had been an increase this year.
Part of the cause, they said, was reduced government budgets to repair and expand the road network. In this case, however, the road in question is straight and flat, and in a fair state of repair.
Premier Shimon Peres asked Transport Minister Hain Corfu to draw up a working paper to serve as the basis for the Cabinet deliberations Sunday.
Before the Cabinet meeting, Uriel Lin (Likud Liberals), who chairs a special parliamentary committee on road safety, publicly blasted the government for failing to give adequate attention to the problem of accidents on the road.
Lin, who before entering politics served as budget director of the Finance Ministry charged that state funding for road-building and road repairs was currently only 10 percent of what it had been in 1970.
Lin urged more stringent driving tests and more energetic enforcement of the traffic code by highway police. “Many drivers simply don’t know how to drive,” he said. “They don’t know how to keep control in an emergency situation, and they don’t know how to avoid getting into such situations.”