Saturday, February 18, 2012

5-year-old crash survivor says bus burnt 'like hell'

Israeli and Palestinian rescue workers stand with onlookers at the scene of
an accident near the Qalandiya checkpoint outside the West Bank city of
Ramallah, Feb. 16, 2012. (REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Five-year-old Muhammad escaped the deadly crash of his school bus near Qalandiya on Thursday, but he cannot shake off the images of his classmates as the vehicle caught fire.

"We were shouting, dancing and singing as we were excited about our school trip, when suddenly I saw a fire and felt heat like our teacher's description of hell," Muhammad Baker Shihadeh, now recuperating in Ramallah public hospital, recounted.

His father told Ma'an that he is bruised and in shock, but in a stable condition.

At least five schoolchildren and their teacher were killed, and some 39 others injured, when their bus collided with a truck near a north Jerusalem checkpoint.The class were on a field trip from Shufat refugee camp in Jerusalem to a children's park near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Muhammad was able to escape from the bus after it overturned, and before a fire whipped through the seats, his father said.

He had been incredibly excited about the trip, and ran to the bus with friends on Thursday morning, excitedly discussing the games they would play later in the day, he continued.

"My son told me when the accident happened the children were crying and screaming in total terror. Some escaped before the fire, but others were terribly injured and were stuck inside the bus between the seats."

"I ran to the scene in a total panic when I heard," he said.

"I thank God that my son is stable, but am devastated about all the children who died. I pray that God will stand beside their parents in their misery."

Maan News Agency