The body of a tenth Israeli student was recovered late Thursday night by search and rescue personnel who continued efforts despite a blanket of darkness combined with incredibly difficult and harsh conditions to track down the girl who had been torn away in the rushing water from her fellow classmates. The search for the final missing teen had been suspended at about 8 pm after the weather became so bad that it was impossible to continue due to the risk posed to the rescue force. She was pronounced dead by paramedics from the Magen David Adom emergency medical service, bringing the death toll to 10.
A group of 25 students from the Bnei Zion Academy pre-military mechina (preparatory program) in Tel Aviv had gone hiking in the Nahal Tzafit riverbed west of the southern Dead Sea area in the Judean Desert, earlier in the day.
Nine girls and a boy from the group were killed by the raging flash flood that swept them away during the hike in the Nahal Tzafit riverbed.
The names of six of the victims have been cleared for publication thus far: Ela Or from Ma’aleh Adumim, Tzur Alfi from Mazkeret Batya, Shani Shamir from Shoham, Yael Sadan from Jerusalem, Maayan Barhoum from Jerusalem and Romi Cohen from Moshav Maor.
Thirteen boys and girls were rescued and determined to be in good medical condition; two were treated by paramedics and taken to Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva in fair condition with hypothermia and assorted injuries.
Heartbroken, grieving families and those shaken by the close call of their children who survived were gathered at the hospital where they received support from special trauma teams.
An investigation into the tragedy has been opened by Israel Police to determine how and why the school took the students on such a field trip in an area about which there had been numerous and repeated public flash flood warnings for at least two days prior.
“The State of Israel grieves for the promising young lives that were cut off by the grave disaster in the Arava. We embrace, with pain, the grieving families, and pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the news of the casualties was reported.
Earlier in the evening, both Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin issued statements of encouragement and support for the families, with praise for the security and rescue forces.