The scene of the fatal bus crash, Dec. 2008
The scene of the fatal bus crash, Dec. 2008Flash 90

On Sunday, a District Court in Be'er Sheva found bus driver Edward Gelfond guilty of the death of 24 tourists who were travelling on a bus that drove over a cliff on the way to the southern Israeli city of Eilat back in December 2008.

His 60 passengers, representatives from five travel agencies on a scouting trip to Israel, were all from St. Petersburg, Russia, and had landed at nearby Ovda Airport just before the crash.

The fatal accident occurred 1.8 miles north of the city of Eilat. Gelfond was driving at 98 kilometers per hour (60 mph) down a steep slope, towards a sharp curve, with a chasm to his left. When the driver attempted to skirt around another bus at high speed, the bus veered off the road and plunged into a ravine about 5-10 meters deep.

Twenty-four people died and 33 others were injured. Forty ambulances rushed to the scene and the Israel Air Force dispatched six helicopters to evacuate the injured from the desert ravine. The Russian government sent doctors, psychologists and other specialists to Israel in order to treat the injured and their families.

The indictment stated:  "The defendant took unnecessary risks, knowing that overtaking the second bus with his own was dangerous and could - as in this case it did - bring about fatal results."

"Nevertheless, he [Gelfond] continued and did not slow down even when approaching the curve, veering to the left while knowing it may cause the bus to flip over."

The prosecution also noted the multiple traffic signs warning drivers of the speed limits and the possibility of skidding, which Gelfond ignored.

Sentencing will take place at a separate date.