The 10 teenage victims of flash-flood hiking tragedy

April 29, 2018 by JNS
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The mood throughout Israel was somber on Friday as the name of the last of 10 missing youths killed in a flash flood near the Dead Sea was released, following the recovery of her body in the early morning hours.

Ilan Bar Shalom was the last teenager to be recovered, as emergency search-and-rescue and elite army units raced against time in the hopes of finding her alive.

The 10 students killed in flash flooding during a hike at Nahal Tzafit on Thursday were part of a group of 25 young people who been accepted to the Bnei Tzion pre-military academy in Tel Aviv, and were participating in an excursion meant to build camaraderie prior to the beginning of the program in September.

Survivors told rescue teams that a massive wave of water as high as 13 feet tall smashed into part of the group as it walked through a dried riverbed, washing 10 of the 25 students away. The 15 who managed to avert the wave or climb out of the water were saved by rescue teams and treated for light injuries and hypothermia.

The victims of the tragedy were:

Tzur Alfi from Mazkeret Batya, the only boy killed in the tragedy, who the head of the Mazkeret Batya Regional Council called “a child with values, a sociable person who aspired to be an educator.”

Ella Or of Ma’ale Adumim, who was described by her five siblings in a statement as “the most beautiful flower, the most charming and sweet smile, always caring, always embracing, always optimistic, the most talented and successful sister in the family.”

Yael Sadan of Jerusalem, a graduating dance student in Jerusalem’s High School for the Arts, who her dance teacher described as “a stunning, smiling girl with a sense of humor, a talented dancer, and a skilled choreographer.”

Agam Levy from Herut, whose grandfather talled Walla news that she “was persistent, studio, and endlessly volunteering, having tutored sick children in Africa and taught in a school in Vietnam.

Shani Shamir of Shoham, whom the town’s mayor called “the daughter every parent hopes for. Smiling, wise, brilliant, a leader,” in an interview with Kan public broadcasting.

Gali Balali from Givatayim, whose teacher told Kan that she was “always smiling, always helping, always connecting people.”

Adi Raanan of Mikhmoret, whose funeral will take place in her town on Sunday afternoon.

Romi Cohen of Maor, near Hadera, who will be buried at noon at the Maor cemetery.

Maayan Barhum of Jerusalem, whose funeral will take place alongside Sadan at 12:30 p.m. at the Givat Shaul Cemetery in Jerusalem.

Ilan Bar Shalom from Rishon Letzion, the last to be found. No information has been provided on her funeral.

All of the victims were 17 or 18 years old.

Israeli police arrested the principal and an instructor at the Bnei Zion pre-military academy for suspected negligent homicide in connection to the tragic deaths of 10 teenagers in a flash flood on Thursday.

According to police, the two, identified as principal Yuval Cohen and instructor Aviv Bredichev, were questioned early on Friday for their failure to heed flash-flood warnings in the Dead Sea region. Police said a third suspect was also questioned but later released.

Both Cohen and Bredichev were brought to Be’er Sheva Magistrates’ Court on Friday, where police were granted a five-day extension to their arrest.

Ten students were killed during a field trip on Thursday during flash floods that pummeled Israel. A group of 25 students, ages 17 and 18, who were accepted to the Bnei Tzion pre-military academy in Tel Aviv for the coming year, were hiking in the Judean Desert along the Nahal Tzafit riverbed trail that empties into the Dead Sea.

Police said that both suspects knew about the weather warnings ahead of the trip, but nevertheless decided to proceed with the hike, despite even some students voicing their concerns of the potential for fatal consequences.

“I cannot believe I’m going on a trip in such weather,” one of the 10 students who died said in a WhatsApp group chat to friends before the hike, Israel’s Hadashot TV news reported. “It doesn’t make sense for us to go to a place where everything is flooding. It’s tempting fate—we’re going to die, I’m serious.”

However, in a WhatsApp message ahead of the trip, the pre-military academy downplayed the threat, saying that the hike would “fun and wet and an experience.” They also told the students to bring “a rain coat,” “a rain cover for your bags” and “a change of dry clothes in case you need [it].”

“Don’t worry,” the message said. “We are well-prepared for the hike and the academy has checked with the relevant authorities. It will be fun and wet and an experience!”

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