A week after the horrific accident near Tiberias that killed eight members of the Atias family, owners of the same vehicle that was involved in the accident have reported having difficulties in slowing down because the vehicle’s gas pedal gets stuck.
On Tuesday, Channel 2 News presented testimonies by Noa Lavi and Yifat Brenner, both of whom own a Mitsubishi Grandis, the same type of vehicle driven by the Atias family on the night of the accident.
“The gas pedal got stuck and there was no control of the brakes,” Brenner told Channel 2. “We had to move the gear into neutral [to slow down].”
She added, “The car just started to accelerate and I had no control over its speed. Eventually I bent down and pulled the gas pedal up with my hand while driving.”
Brenner said that she has developed a method to deal with this problem, namely moving into neutral and then stepping on the brakes, which allows for the release of the gas pedal.
Dr. Uzi Raz of the Israeli College for Security and Investigations rejected claims that had been made that the carpet that was located near the pedals prevented the brake pedal from working, thus causing the accident. Raz, who examined the accident’s findings, stated that there was no connection between the accident and the carpet.
“We tested whether the carpet caused the accident, or something else that had gotten into the vehicle,” Raz told Channel 2. “There was no connection between the carpet and the accident.”
He added, “The findings gave us the opportunity to determine that the vehicle’s fuel system caused the vehicle to continue to gain momentum as it was driving on an uphill section of the road, about 3.5 kilometers in length. The driver struggled to control the vehicle, causing the erosion of the brakes and they failed as the vehicle was going downhill.”
The Israeli Colmobil company, which imports Mitsubishi vehicles in Israel, told Channel 2 in response, “The company is unaware of any malfunction in the gas pedal and it is unaware that the cause of the accident is related to any failure in the gas pedal. Two years ago the company initiated a replacement of the carpets in vehicles of this model to prevent movement of the carpet beneath the driver’s feet and cause friction with the accelerator, and to the best of our knowledge this issue is not related to the accident either. In our opinion, until the accident is fully investigated by the authorities, it would not be right to go into speculations.”
The Atias family was returning to their home in the national religious community of Bar Yochai, located near Meron and Tzfat, last Monday night, when the driver, Rafael Atias, 42, realized his brakes were not working and phoned the emergency hotline.
As the car sped down a hill out of control, Atias' wife Yehudit, 42, abruptly stopped a conversation with the hotline and screamed, “G-d. Save us. HaShem, save us.”
The victims, besides the parents, are Avia, 17, twins Eliyashiv and Neria Shimon, 16, Shira, 11, Tair, 8 and Noa, 4.
Only the couple’s seven-year-old daughter, Rachel, survived the tragic accident. She was hospitalized at Haifa's Rambam Hospital and was released last Thursday morning.
She has gone to live with her mother's sister, Esther Cohen, in Tzfat. The aunt has children her age and little Rachel has begun walking on her own again after several days in a wheelchair. The family and friends are enveloping her with love, as she tries to adjust to the fact that her world has changed irrevocably.