Haim Biton
Haim BitonMiriam Alster/Flash90

The Jerusalem Magistrates Court ruled recently that the driver of a bus which crashed in February 2016 will serve four years in prison.

The crash between the line 402 bus towards Bnei Brak and a truck killed six of the bus' passengers and injured several others.

The plea bargain was made over a year ago, and included four years of prison and token payments of a few dozen thousand shekels to the victims' families.

Judge Yehoshua Zimmerman ordered the bus driver, Haim Biton, to pay 12,000 NIS each to the families of the six who were killed in the crash. Sara Sperling, the bride who was severely injured in the crash and who wed at the end of November instead of at the end of February, will receive 8,000 NIS.

The driver's license has been suspended for 15 years, and he will never again be allowed to drive a public vehicle.

At first, the district prosecutor wanted to demand a higher sum of money for the families, but the judge insisted on taking the driver's difficult financial straits into consideration.

Prior to the ruling, Biton said he had married and had a son, and now understands better what family means. He admitted that he killed the victims by driving recklessly and carelessly, and asked that his sentence be delayed for a few months so that he can spend time with his son.

"I don't know how much abundance, how much light, I cut off from this world by killing people this way," Biton said then. "I am sorry. I hope that G-d willing, whatever G-d does will be for the good."

"Any jail sentence, no matter how long it is, will never bring back the victims who were killed by the accused's reckless driving, and will not be able to rehabilitate the bride who was severely injured," Judge Zimmerman said. "However, a prison sentence does express the fact that the court and the judge see the accused's deeds and their consequences as very severe."

Explaining his decision to the widower of victim Leah Melamud, Zimmerman added, "This is a fair and reasonable agreement."

Regarding the compensation, the judge decided that even though he usually orders financial compensation in line with the severity of the actions, "the final agreement means a heavier compensation package in the long run." He also said that he is "not sure that crippling the defendant financially" the moment he steps out of jail "is indeed the right thing to do."

Prior to the February 2016 crash, Biton had been previously convicted for a 2014 crash which left 18 civilians injured. In that crash, Biton was found guilty of reckless driving and failing to maintain a safe distance between his bus and the other vehicles.

The February 2016 crash occurred after a truck driver traveling on Highway 1 between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem noticed an oil leak and pulled over to the shoulder of the road. As the bus was passing the stopped truck it veered out of the lane and into the shoulder, crashing into the right side of the truck. At the time of the crash, Biton was speaking on his mobile phone, an illegal action, instead of concentrating on the road.