At least 26 Russian tourists dead in Israeli bus accident

December 17th, 2008 - 12:59 am ICT by IANS  

Tel Aviv, Dec 16 (DPA) A bus carrying Russian tourists plunged into a gully near the Israeli resort of Eilat Tuesday afternoon, killing at least 26 people and injuring 29, in one of Israel’s worst-ever bus accidents.Sixteen of the injured were said to be in serious condition, with some in danger of losing their lives, hospital officials said. Many had head or chest or abdomen injuries. The tourists had just landed at Uvda airport, about 40 km north of Eilat.

They were on their way to the resort on the shores of the Gulf of Aqaba, travelling along a road which snakes along the barren, hilly, Israel-Sinai border, when the bus plunged 60-metres into the gully.

It was not immediately clear why the bus left the road, but a witness told Israel Radio that the vehicle was being driven “dangerously”.

He said the accident occurred as the bus attempted to overtake another vehicle on a sharp bend while travelling at high speed, sending it into the gully, where it came to a rest lying on its side.

Passengers came flying out the windows of the vehicle as it tumbled down, other accounts of the accident said.

The driver of the overtaken bus told Israel’s Channel 2 News that he had been driving at 50 km-per-hour when overtaken.

“I saw him through the rear-view mirror. I slowed down. We got to the turn and he didn’t regain control of the bus to bring it back on course, and then he lost control,” he said.

Soldiers from nearby army bases were rushed to the scene and gave emergency first aid as rescue personnel gingerly picked their way through the scattered belongings on the ground to evacuate the injured and clear the bodies.

Some 20 ambulances and three Israel Air Force helicopters were rushed to the scene and began evacuating the passengers to a hospital in Eilat.

The main hospital there issued an emergency call for all vacationing doctors and nurses in the city to come help treat the wounded. Some of the injured would be transferred to hospitals elsewhere in Israel, Israel Radio reported.

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