Sigal Duek, survivor of Carmel fire, tells harrowing tale of escape from prison service cadets' bus.
Senior Warden Sigal Duek saw 36 Prison Service course cadets and staff members burn in front of her eyes, and is struggling to shake off the trauma.
Her brother, Tomer Gamdani, told reporters on Wednesday that his sister had recounted the disaster before him. "I saw the cadets burn in front of my very eyes. I stared death in the face," she said. To her husband she had confessed, "I love you all", certain she would not survive the fire.
Duek started her career in the Prison Service as a warden at the Neve Tirtza Prison, and excelled in her studies at the Prison Service officers' course. At 36 she was promoted to senior warden. "She loved the Prison Service and the work," her brother said.
Sigal was not meant to board the cadet bus which headed towards the Damon Prison last Thursday, as she is a married mother of two children aged five and two. However, another female officer asked her to go in her place and Duek agreed.
Sigal related the story of what had happened on the bus to her family: "We drove down the Beit Oren road and while driving noticed private vehicles which were making u-turns because of the flames and the heavy smoke. One of the officers stepped down to direct the bus while it made a u-turn and then the fire hit the bus. It started burning."
Sigal said the fire spread quickly. "The fire reached the front of the bus and it started going up in flames. I yelled to the cadets to get off immediately. The back door was jammed and the cadets broke it open. When we got off we ran away from the bus."
Sigal's brother's Tomer said that photographer Roni Sofer saved Sigal and two other cadets who were with her. The three got in his car and drove off as the flames surrounded the area.
"It was all a matter of seconds," the brother noted. "The cadets who were with her helped her run and then she jumped on the car's windshield and yelled 'save us, save us.' She told us she felt the heavy heat on her body as the fire quickly spread. Some of the cadets managed to escape the bus but the fire got hold of them and burned them alive. Had the photographer not been there she and the other cadets would not have made it and would have burned alive like their friends."