Falling rock kills Israeli cyclist riding on Bolivia’s Death Road

Marcus M. Gilban

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — An Israeli woman died after a falling rock hit her during a bicycle tour along a dangerous area dubbed “death road” in the mountains of Bolivia.

The 22-year-old woman reportedly died after a 440-pound falling rock crushed her leg along the Yungas Road, Israeli media reported.

She was evacuated in critical condition on a makeshift stretcher that her Israeli friends concocted in the field after the rescue helicopter they called via a satellite phone was unable to approach due to extreme weather conditions. However, she eventually succumbed to her wounds on the way to the hospital.

Dubbed “El Camino de la Muerte” by locals, or the Death Road, the Yungas Road is considered by many to be the most dangerous stretch of road in the world. The 40-mile journey from its summit entices in excess of 25,000 mountain bike riders annually.

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Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has notified the family in Israel. Bolivian and Israeli authorities are working together to handle the return of the body to the Jewish state, reported local media.

The backpacker was a recently released soldier who was on her post-army trip to South America. She was hiking with friends and two local guides. The hikers traversed a mountain some 5,400 meters above sea level, when the boulder, some six feet in diameter, fell off the mountain and struck her. She suffered an open fracture.

Bolivia’s Death Road is a popular tourist destination for Israelis and other visitors to the country. Since 1999, at least 10 Israelis have died in accidents there.

Last year, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales called Chile the “Israel of South America” in condemning the expulsion of nine Bolivian officials detained after being accused of smuggling, theft and illegal possession of weapons.

“Chile is the Israel of South America: It imposes political walls, invisible and mental; Gives civil death to our 9 compatriots,” Morales wrote in his Twitter account.

Morales was one of Israel’s fiercest critics during the Gaza war in 2014, when Bolivia declared Israel a “terrorist state.” The country also canceled a 30-year-old agreement enabling Israelis to visit Bolivia without visas.

Bolivia is home to some 500 Jews, most of whom live in La Paz. There are also smaller communities in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

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