North Macedonia-bound Bus Crashes and Catches Fire Near Sofia, Killing 45
Sofia, November 23 (BTA) - A bus crashed and caught fire near Sofia shortly after 2:00 am on Tuesday, killing at least 45 people. The bus was travelling from Turkey to North Macedonia and caught fire after crashing into the guard rail on Strouma motorway, near the western village of Bosnek, the Interior Ministry reported. Seven people have been taken to Sofia's Pirogov emergency hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Caertaker Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov told journalists that three buses were travelling together and the one that crashed was last. It's possible that passengers have moved from one bus to another during a rest stop prior to the crash, he said. According to him, the friction between the bus and the guard rail could have caused the fire, but the details will be cleared out over the course of the investigation.
National Investigation Service (NIS) chief Borislav Sarafov said there were a total of 52 passengers on the bus, including 12 children. No Bulgarian citizens were on the bus, according to preliminary information. The bus driver is among those killed.
The Mayorof the nearby city of Pernik, Stanislav Vladimirov, said that a 50 metres-long section of the guard rail has been destroyed by the bus. The motorway section is one of the most difficult ones in Bulgaria and many accidents happen there. The road was wet and at an incline, he explained.
A BTA reporter saw that the bus was completely burned. The bus appears to have first crashed into the guard rail on the right side, after which it continued and crahed into the guard rail dividing the motorway, where it came to a stop. Debris was scattered near the site of the initial impact. No skid marks can be seen.
Caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev, who was at the scene of the crash, said he has talked with North Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. Yanev urged the media to maintain a balance between the public interst and the huge tragedy for the victims' families. He expressed condolences to the friends and families of those who died.
Caretaker Foreign Minister Svetlan Stoev talked to his counterpart from North Macedonia Bujar Osmani, Stoev's Ministry reported. Stoev has expressed cindolences to the victims' families. He assured Osmani that Bulgaria will render full cooperation in investigating the accident and treating the injured.
Osmani arrived at Sofia's Pirogov Hospital on Tuesday morning to see the injured survivors of the crash. Answering a question, he said that as far as he knows, the travel agency was based in Skopje and over ten children have been killed in the crash, according to unconfirmed information.
Stefan Yanev was also at the hospital, where the seven injured passengers are treated, the Government information service reported. He was informed that the patients are in conscious and in stable condition by Pirogov Hospital Director Prof. Ivan Poromanski, the head of the burns and plastic surgery unit, Prof. Maya Argirova, and the head of the trauma unit, Prof. Diyan Enchev. Yanev spoke to the injured, expressing condolences over the horrible accident and wishing them a speedy recovery.
The surviving passengers are not Bulgarian citizens. Six have suffered burns and one has suffered a leg injury. They have been examined and admited to the hospital's burns unit.
Zoran Zaev is expected to arrive as well.
President Rumen Radev expressed condolences to North Macedonia's President Stevo Pendarovski over the tragic bus accident, Radev's Press Secretariat reported.
In his and the Bulgarian people's name, Radev expresses most sincere condolences to the families and friends of the citizens of North Macedonia who died in the crash, as well as hope for speedy recovery of those injured.
In this difficult time, Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia share common grief, solidarity and sympathy. The dozens of lives lost are an irreconcilable loss for our brotherly nations, the Bulgarian President's position reads.
Radev calls on the responsible institutions to establish the causes that lead to the serious road accident, as well as to provide timely support to the crash survivors.