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Investigation Continues on Desert Hike that Cost 10 Teenage Lives

04-27-2018
Locals watch streams form in the desert after the rain at Wadi Og near Nabi Musa, Photo, TPS, Hillel Maeir

JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli authorities have opened an investigation into Thursday's tragic events that took the lives of 10 teenagers – nine girls and a boy.

Search and rescue teams successfully extricated 13 students who were unharmed and two others who sustained light-to-moderate injuries and were treated at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva.

Israel's top search and rescue teams joined forces Thursday, retrieving nine of the 10 missing students before dark. On Friday morning, they found the body of the last victim south of the Dead Sea near a truck washed away by the flood. Police are still searching for the driver.

The teens were part of a group of 25 high school graduates hoping to attend the Bnei Tzion pre-military academy in Tel Aviv.  They were swept away in a flash flood as they were hiking Nahal Tzafit, a popular canyon trail in the desert mountains near the Dead Sea.

Despite weather forecasts and flash floods in the area the day before and public warnings in the media not to travel in the area, the trip wasn't canceled.

On Friday morning, Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld announced that an investigation had been opened, and the academy's principal and several staff members were questioned overnight.


Cars struggling to cross the flooded streets in Tel Aviv, Photo, TPS, Gad Amiton

Police are also examining text messages by students and staff, one in particular in which one of the victims said, "We will die."

She wrote, "I cannot believe that I am actually going out on this trip in this weather. It makes no sense to go to a place prone to flooding. It is tempting fate. We will die. I am serious," YNet quoted her, along with several other texts expressing students' apprehension.

The texts included a response by at least one staffer who told them not to worry.

"Do not worry; we are well prepared for the trip and the academy confirmed with relevant sources it will be fun and wet," the staff member reportedly wrote, advising them to bring a tent, raincoat, cover for backpacks and a spare set of dry clothes "in case it's necessary."

Another assured students that the hike "does not include descending to the riverbed. It will be safe."

But it wasn't.

On Friday morning, YNet posted pictures and biographies of eight of the 10 teens who've been identified. . The investigation continues as the nation mourns the loss of life and authorities try to determine if the tragedy could have been prevented.

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