Fatal tour bus crash (archive)
Fatal tour bus crash (archive)Israel news photo: Flash 90

A driver convicted of the manslaughter of 24 people in a horrific bus crash will serve eight years in prison. Driver Edward Gelfond was sentenced Sunday at a court in Be’er Sheva.

Gelfond was found guilty of manslaughter in September in the deaths of 24 Russian tour guides.

The fatal crash occurred in December 2008. Gelfond attempted to overtake another bus on the highway to Eilat, lost control of his vehicle, and swerved off the road.

The bus tumbled down a cliff, killing 24 of the 60 passengers and injuring an additional 33. Investigators later found that Gelfond had been traveling at 98 kilometers per hour (60.1 miles per hour), well over the speed limit of 80 kmph (49.7 mph).  

Judge Tzila Tzfat wrote in her verdict that the accident, “Took an incredibly high toll in human life; the lives of 24 men and women were cut short, many others were injured in body and spirit, and then there is the sorrow of the loved ones of those killed and injured.

“This terrible price in human life was a result of the fast, careless driving of the defendant, who did not adjust his driving to the road conditions,” she wrote. Gelfond’s poor driving “reached its peak with his random, unnecessary attempt to pass another vehicle, which ended in an accident,” she added.

While Gelfond caused just one accident, the large number of victims must be taken into account, she continued. “The dead will never return. The defendant’s responsibility for taking so many lives due to careless, risky driving is cause for a significant punishment,” she stated.

In addition to his prison sentence, Gelfond will not be allowed to apply for a driver’s license for the next 25 years.