On Wednesday around 4:30 PM, a three-car accident took place on Highway 90 near the Dead Sea chemical plants. One car was completely overturned and 5 passengers sustained injuries.
Emergency services were called and United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Zohar Hekal, who was one of the closest first responders to the scene, was notified about the accident. Zohar is an Egged bus driver and was driving along the route from Eilat to Jerusalem. He quickly announced the accident and asked his 50 or so passengers if they minded waiting while he treated the wounded. No one objected, so Zohar headed toward the scene of the accident.
“The accident was really in the middle of nowhere, between the Dead Sea and the chemical plants, but luckily I happened to be driving near there at the right time and was able to help,” Zohar said. “I knew there wouldn’t be many other first responders near the scene so it was hard for me to ignore the situation and continue on my way. I made a right turn instead of a left, where most people were going to avoid the site of the crash, and we arrived there in under 5 minutes.”
With his passengers watching, Zohar parked the bus on the side of the road, threw on his bright orange United Hatzalah vest, and went to work. He surveyed the scene and found a man with the words “qualified nurse” on his shirt. A fireman from a nearby town was also at the scene with his small fire truck. Zohar ran over to them and together they came up with a plan to triage and assess the patients.
The three men started by rescuing three victims from inside the flipped car. It took them almost half an hour to free all three. The patients were all in serious condition, one of them unconscious. The patient in the second car was in moderate condition, and the patient in the last car was only lightly injured. “We did triage and decided on treating the patients from the overturned car first, since they required more attention,” Zohar recalled.
Zohar explained the process of treatment at the scene: “I didn’t have all of my medical equipment with me, so we used whatever the nurse had in his private ambulance. We stabilized the head and neck of the seriously injured and put neck braces on those who needed them.”
After 20 minutes, a helicopter arrived to evacuate the more seriously injured. Shortly thereafter, ambulances arrived to transport the others to the nearest hospital.
Zohar waited until the very last patient had been whisked away in an ambulance before returning to his bus and continuing on his way to Jerusalem. It was incredibly important to Zohar to finish the job and make sure everyone had been cared for.
“When I returned to the bus, an hour and a half later, the passengers gave me the biggest round of applause, and yelled out ‘Well done!’ and lots of good wishes, and handed me personalized letters they had written me while they were waiting,” Zohar recalled. “I was so impressed by their patience and willingness to help me help others, it’s not something that should to be taken for granted, especially in Israel, where people are always in a rush. They were inspired by the work that we volunteer first responders do. It was truly an emotional moment for me: I was doing my job and they let me.”