JERUSALEM (JTA) — The death of a firefighter who tried to save passengers on a burning bus raised the toll from the Carmel Forest fire to 44.
Danny Hayat, 35, died Saturday at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. He was burned over at least two-thirds of his body and had undergone two skin transplants since the fire two weeks ago. He was in an induced coma.
Hayat, a father of two whose wife is pregnant, was one of three firefighters who tried to pull prison guards from a bus that was engulfed in flames while rushing to evacuate a prison in the path of the historic blaze earlier this month. Thirty-eight of the passengers on board were burned to death.
The other victims of the fire, which is being called Israel’s worst civilian disaster, were three police officers — including Haifa Police Chief Ahuva Tomer — two firefighters and a 16-year-old volunteer.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of Hayat’s death and his bravery Sunday at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting.
"To our deep sorrow, firefighter Danny Hayat passed away last night after fighting for his life for two weeks," he said. "Danny courageously fought the fire in an heroic attempt to save the Prison Service bus. My wife and I visited him in hospital. We met his wife, Hofit, who is due to give birth. We met his parents, Motti and Batsheva, and we discovered a strong, united and brave family.
"Despite all the prayers and the efforts, Danny passed away. Our hearts — the government’s and the nation’s — are with the Hayat family."
Also Sunday, the Cabinet decided to award financial rights to the families of those who were killed trying to rescue the prison service bus during the Carmel fire similar to those given to the families of fallen soldiers.
According to the decision, the families of Hayat and fellow firefighter Uri Semandayev, Fire Service volunteer Elad Riven and bus driver David Navon will be recognized as bereaved families according to the 1950 Families of Fallen Soldiers Law.