Police announced Monday that the bus driver was being held on distraction or negligence charges in connection with the crash, the reports said.
Berta Schwartz, 71, who taught at Perelman Jewish Day School in Melrose Park, Pa., died from her injuries, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. She and her husband, Baruch, were visiting Israel in anticipation of the birth of her fifth grandchild.
In addition to the four deaths, 14 people were injured, the Times of Israel reported.
The bus, which had left Jerusalem for Haifa at 6 p.m., hit a bus shelter at the side of the road at Bedek Junction, the newspaper reported. The impact caused massive damage to the vehicle, which was partially crushed by the bus shelter’s concrete roof.
Schwartz, who was visiting Israel for the first time in nine years, had been seated in a different row than her husband, who survived the accident.
Baruch Schwartz described the frantic aftermath of the crash.
“For more than half an hour I was shouting, ‘Where is she?’ She was under the concrete,” he recounted to Hebrew-language media. “What hurts the most is that in two weeks a grandchild is supposed to be born to our son, and she was looking forward to that so much. She hadn’t been in the country for nine years and this visit was very significant for her.”
“For more than half an hour I was shouting ‘where is she?’ She was under the concrete.”
The driver, identified as 44-year-old Alexander Leibman of Haifa, was treated for his injuries at Beilinson Hospital before his remand was extended later by four days.
An initial investigation found the bus swerved for an unknown reason, the Times of Israel reported. An ambulance service medic said the bus driver was trapped in his seat after the crash, but was conscious when emergency responders arrived.
A senior police officer told Israeli television after the accident that investigators suspected the driver had been distracted. His phone was confiscated.
The driver could face negligent homicide charges, reports in Hebrew media said Monday.
He told investigators he did not have an explanation for the accident, saying, “I’m still in shock, I don’t know how it happened,” one local television station reported.
Berta Schwartz moved with her family to Israel when she was 15, the Inquirer reported. She served as a medic in the Israeli army and later moved to the Philadelphia area to be near extended family, said her son, Michael Schwartz.
She signed up for English classes at Temple University, where she met her husband, who was another Israeli student. They married in 1978, settled in Cheltenham, Pa., and had three children.
After obtaining a teaching certificate from Gratz College, Berta Schwartz began a 28-year teaching career at Perelman, said school head Judy Groner.
She also taught Hebrew and culture in the synagogue’s religious school for decades – before retiring in 2018, Glantz said.