EILAT, Israel (AP) – At least 23 Russian tourists were killed and dozens of others were seriously injured after their bus plunged into a ravine Tuesday near the popular Israeli Red Sea resort town of Eilat, officials said.
The driver of another tour bus said the vehicle sped by in a no-passing zone, crashed through a guard rail and rolled down the slope.
Television footage showed the blue bus overturned at the bottom of a desert ravine, debris strewn along the slope it rolled down from the road. Bodies in white bags were laid out in a row at the bottom of the ravine, which was swarming with rescue workers and soldiers.
The passengers’ luggage was tossed into a pile nearby. “Dozens of wounded and dead were strewn along the slope. Most of them were thrown from the bus as it rolled,” medic Gabi Baribo said.
The bus overtook another tour vehicle in a no-pass zone, lost control, then crashed through a guard rail into the ravine, said Rami Vazana, the driver of the bus that was overtaken.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said 23 people were killed.
A spokeswoman for Israel’s tourism ministry said the 60 passengers on the bus were Russians, and Eilat official Avi Cohen said they were from the city of St. Petersburg and had just landed.
Irina Tyurina, a spokeswoman for the Russian Union of Tour Operators, told the Russian station Vesti-TV that they were representatives from five Russian tour agencies on a professional scouting trip to Israel.
Forty ambulances rushed to the scene and Israel’s air force dispatched six helicopters to evacuate the seriously wounded to hospitals across the country.
An Israeli military officer who was among the first to arrive said he and several others rescued six wounded people who were trapped in the bus. “They were saved because they were trapped in their seats. The rest were scrambled and mangled, spread out along the slope,” said the officer, who identified himself only as Sawad because military regulations do not allow him to speak to the media without authorization.