Six die as bus carrying Polish tourists crashes in Serbia

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Six people have been killed after a bus carrying Polish tourists crashed in Serbia. The accident happened yesterday on a road north of Belgrade that led to Novi Sad. The nearest town is Indjija. The bus had been taking the tourists home after a trip to Bulgaria.

Five victims died at the scene. They were a woman, three men and a child. Another child died later in hospital. Of a total of sixty-eight on the bus, around forty are injured, although exact figures are unclear. All the victims are passengers, as the owner of the vehicle's operator Moana, Josef Rzepka, said both of the drivers on board escaped unhurt.

A Reuters photograph shows the bus lying on its right side next to what appears to be a straight stretch of road. There is a slight slope under the bus and its rear end appears to have reached the bottom of the drop, crushing the roof at the back of the bus. It is not yet clear what caused the bus to swerve off the road, but as the crash occurred at 6:30 a.m. local time the driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel.

There are also allegations that the double-decker bus may have been in a poor state of repair. The father of one victim said that the vehicle's windscreen wipers were taped together and the paintwork had been done by a brush instead of sprayed on. He also said that his daughter had reported rain leaking through the bus roof. Polish media also says some parents were concerned by the bus before they sent their children on the journey, although others say the bus appeared mechanically safe. Regardless, the bus has been removed with a crane and subjected to a technical examination by police.

Poland supplied a military aircraft to transport relatives into Serbia.

The crash is the worst in the area since a disaster in April 2004 that saw a Bulgarian coach returning from a journey to Croatia crashed into the Lim river, leaving twelve students dead. Road accidents are common in Serbia as regulations are commonly ignored. New legislation has been proposed to fine violators more heavily, but has yet to be implemented.

An investigation is ongoing.

The local hospital has established a hotline for worried friends and relatives of people who may have been on board the coach.
The public inquiry number is +381 - /0/63 - 1154811