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Forensic Expert Reconstructs Atias Crash

The former head of Israel's traffic accident investigation team spoke with A7 about the circumstances of the tragic crash that killed 8
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 5/22/2012, 10:55 PM

Atias Crash Site
Atias Crash Site
צילום דני אליהו דוברות כבאות והצלה

The former head of the Israel Police accident investigation team, Jacob Netzer, spoke with Arutz Sheva about his findings at the accident scene where eight members of the Atias family died.

He said reports in the media that police had concluded "mechanical failure" was the root cause of the accident were correct, but somewhat simplistic.

Netzer noted that preliminary findings showed the vehicle had passed the Motor Vehicle Bureau inspections as recently as three months ago, and that the brakes were listed as being in good condition.

While police are investigating whether there may have been negligence on the part of the inspectors, Netzer said other causes for the brake failure have not been ruled out.

Police have brought in engineers from the Ministry of Transportation and outside consultants, like Netzer, to determine the exact cause of the brake failure.

"We saw tread marks indicating the vehicle was traveling downhill when it entered a sharp curve in the road," Netzer said. In the first third of the curve he had control of the vehicle, but in the middle third, and into the end, he began to lose control."

Netzer said that the car hit the barrier on the side of the road, "He crashed into the railing, righted the car, and then struck again and righted the car. This happened four times."

"In the end, the vehicle rolled over the barrier into the opposite lane, flew about 7 meters in the air, and landed on its roof."

Netzer said he believes the fire that destroyed the vehicle and killed all but one of its occupants started when flammable material ignited around the wheels due to friction from the metal brakes.

At very high speeds break friction can reach 600 degrees Celsius, which is more than sufficient to ignite flammable liquids. Ordinary tire rubber has a flashpoint of 435 to 557 degrees Celsius.

Netzer said, if the data released today is correct, the vehicle travelled about 7 kilometers and navigated five turns while the driver was on the phone with police.

"If this had happened when vehicles were passing on the other side of the road it could have been even worse," Netzer said, noting that the car flipping over the divider required tremendous speed and force.

He added that it is possible for a driver with inoperable brakes to slow his vehicle by shifting down through the gears, or intentionally skidding along the safety barrier.