Arab and Jewish medics work side-by-side to save Palestinian children from bus fire

Amy Schwartz – WNN Breaking

Emergency medics on the scene on the highway on the way to Ramallah.
Emergency medics and volunteers show up at the H-Adam Junction accident where a school bus of children caught on fire on the highway from Jerusalem to Ramallah. February 16, 2012. Image: UHS

(WNN) Ramallah, WEST BANK, Palestinian Territory: In a show of open compassion without separation between Arabs and Jews, a joined group of volunteer medics went to action to help seriously injured Palestinian children on their way from east Jerusalem to Ramallah.

On Thursday morning, February 16th, 2012, at 9AM,  a school bus carrying Palestinian children near Kikar Adam, a major intersection north of Jerusalem between highway 60 and highway 437  near Ramallah, was hit by a truck and flipped on its side. The bus had set out from a Palestinian school in Shuafat in east Jerusalem to the Ramallah area for a day trip. It turned around and headed back because of dangerous weather conditions. It was struck by the truck en route to east Jerusalem.  The bus immediately caught fire.

The first four (Israeli based) United Hatzalah emergency services medics on the scene were from the nearby Settlement Tel Zion, and additional United Hatzalah Arab volunteers from East Jerusalem joined in the efforts to save lives. United Hatzalah is an independent non-profit fully volunteer Emergency Medical Services (EMS) made up of a diverse group of organizations that assist in responding to medical emergencies throughout the region.

United Hatzalah East Jerusalem coordinator, Murad Alian, is currently at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital counseling and translating for the 10-15 children who arrived with injuries. He is preparing to receive additional victims from other West Bank hospitals who are transferring patients.

“I was in the emergency room and I saw the badly burned children from the bus. It is a horrible scene and brings back sad memories,” said Alian.

As the United Hatzalah volunteers arrived on the scene they saw a truck on an angle smashed across the road and a bus laying on its side, fully engulfed in flames. Passerby’s with hand held fire extinguishers were attempting to extinguish the flames in which United Hatzalah medics assisted with these crucial efforts.

United Hatzalah Dispatcher Ariel Ben David was in one of the first vehicles to arrive on the scene and immediately contacted IDF [Israel Defense Forces] and the Border Control to open the A-RAM border crossing [a town where Palestinians live minutes from Jerusalem] for emergency first responders.

Ariel Ben David,  “When I reached out to take a fire extinguisher from one of the Palestinian passers by, I knew that while he may generally view me as a settler, at that moment, he viewed me as a fellow human being committed to saving the lives of the Palestinian children.”

As far as helping the injured, United Hatzalah medics worked swiftly alongside The Red Crescent, the Israeli Defense Forces, and Magen David Adom to treated and stabilize the victims.

United Hatzalah medic Menachem Leff assisted in extricating some of the charred young bodies from the remains of the bus. He too was stricken by the universality of human suffering and actually returned home to hug his own children to help them better cope with the enormity of the tragedy.

United Hatzalah mental health professionals are now on stand-by to assist any responders who are suffering due to their response to this incident.

In total, eight people were killed – most of them children and approximately 36 others were injured. The injured were rushed to Hadassah Mount Scopus and Hadassah Ein Kerem hospitals in Jerusalem.


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