Victims Named, Survivors Tell of Horror and Grief in Bulgaria Bombing Aftermath (VIDEO)
On the heels of yesterday’s terrorist attack on an Israeli tourist bus in Bulgaria, Israel announced the names of the five victims who held Israeli citizenship: Itzik Kolengi (28) from Petah Tikva, Amir Menashe (28), also from Petah Tikva, Maor Harush (25) from Akko, Elior Priess (26) from Akko and Kochava Shriki (44), of Rishon Lezion.
Dozens of injured Israelis are now attempting to rehabilitate and cope with their traumatic experiences, from the bombing that killed at least eight in an airport in Burgas, a popular destination for Israeli tourists .
One severely injured victim is Daniel Pachima, an Israeli who traveled to Bulgaria with two friends and boarded the deadly bus after a charter flight from Tel Aviv. According to an Israeli Channel 2 interview with his brother, Pachima was caught in the blast on the bus en route to a hotel and sustained severe burns on most of his body, after which he was flown to Bulgaria’s capitol Sofia and admitted to a hospital there.
In the hours after the attack, Pachima’s worried family remained in the dark, unable to confirm his whereabouts until 2:00 AM of the morning after, when they were notified of his condition by the Foreign Ministry. “We were informed in the Situation Room of the Foreign Ministry and we crossed our fingers” Pachima’s brother said. “From what we know, he was injured severely and they brought him to the hospital in Sofia. This morning he went from the unit to Intensive Care, [where] he is sedated, on a respirator, and completely covered in burns.”
The Pachima brothers had a close relationship and had in recent years started a business together as DJs. “We ask everyone to pray for Daniel” said the victim’s brother. “He was definitely on the bus, it was his flight, it was the bus to his hotel” he said.
Another of the bus’s passengers was Moshe Mosri, who told Israel’s Mako news website that he saw “a ball of fire and people burning” but who escaped serious injury by jumping from the bus before he sustained caustic injuries. “I saw a fireball coming at me and I decided either I die or I do something- so I jumped” he said, which he is sure has saved his life. “If I wouldn’t have jumped, I would have died” he said upon his return to Israel, recalling the experience in gruesome details. “I remember bodies on the pavement, severed hands, severed legs” he said.
Bulgarian journalist Dobromir Doskacharov, who arrived at the scene about thirty minutes after the blast, relates a similarly horrifying scene. “I saw three buses completely burnt out – just the metal bars were left.” said Doskacharov to the BBC. “There were crowds of people around, very distressed. One man said he saw decapitated heads. Others spoke of body parts flying through the air.”
The deadly blast occurred at the front of the bus, where authorities say a terrorist, wearing a cap and shorts and possessing a fake Michigan driver’s license, detonated a bomb assumed to be in his backpack. “I was on the bus and we had just sat down when after a few seconds we heard a really loud explosion,” said tourist Gal Malka on Isael’s army radio. Malka described the explosion as being at the bus’ front end and engulfing the vehicle in flames.
Mr. Mosri, who was slightly injured in his hand and leg, remembers the attack slightly differently from what authorities have deduced. “They say it was a terrorist who got on, but it looked like it was a package set on the right side of the bus” he said. “I didn’t see a terrorist; it looked like a planted bomb” he said.
Meanwhile, a process of return to Israel has started for many in need of medical care. An IAF Hercules C-130 plane carrying more than 30 wounded left Bulgaria today for Ben Gurion airport, where it was received by tens of ambulances staffed by medical personnel with distinct assignments according to injury type and hospital destination, reported Mako. A second IAF plane with Medical Corps staff led by Israeli Surgeon General Dudu Dagan MD, has landed in Bulgaria to carry home three victims in need of more intensive medical attention, who were cleared for transport to Israel following a medical assessment. The patients are expected to arrive in Israel tonight, where they will be treated in various Israeli hospitals.
Even healthy Israeli tourists of Bulgaria, despite being miles away from the events in Burgas, were immediately effected by the bombing. Linor Aharon, a tourist who was not on the fated bus in Burgas airport, said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 News that she was contacted by authorities after word spread of the attack: “They called us, and told us there was an attack in Borgus and that we should stay in the hotel” she said. “They didn’t know what happened, there was talk about a terrorist, shooting- but they said the priority was to stay in the hotel.”
Linor and others like her were subsequently flown out of Bulgaria by a government Airbus ordered by Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov. Before taking off, tourists were met in the airport by worried parents who had flown to Bulgaria out of anxiety for their children. “It’s a terrible fear” said Linor’s mother Irit Aharon, who had heard preliminary news about the attack but had not been able to locate her daughter. “You start to search and to locate. We were in all contact, all the mothers of the seven girls who were there- and then we fortunately located her” she said.
“Thanks God she is safe now in Israel” said Linor’s mother.
Below you can watch a video of the victims returning to Israel.