Two major road accidents involving more than 50 passengers resulted in serious injuries to three in Phnom Penh and Svay Rieng province yesterday.
Thirty-seven passengers, including a number of foreign tourists, sustained minor injuries when the bus they were travelling in skidded off the road and flipped onto its side near Svay Rieng’s Svay Chrum market.
The Mekong Express bus was shuttling passengers from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City.
“After inspecting the site, the bus was severely damaged, but the passengers had only minor injuries,” said Ouch Saron, the province’s police chief.
He said the bus driver fled the scene after the accident, a typical occurrence in these situations, and that the police had yet to determine the cause of the crash.
“We could not find the driver for interrogation to assess the reason behind this accident, but according to the driver’s assistant, the driver was sleepy,” he added.
However, Taing Tha Hapisey, personal assistant to Mekong Express’s director, said she did not believe the driver had fallen asleep, given that he was a good driver and had a clean track record over his 15 years of service. “We can know the truth only after checking the monitoring devices equipped on our vehicles,” she said, referring to GPS trackers and security cameras on their vehicles.
Once the company was informed that the passengers weren’t seriously injured, they sent another vehicle to pick them up and continue them on their journey.
“The company is sorry and asks for understanding from all the passengers who are affected by this accident,” she added.
In a separate accident, a minivan carrying 15 passengers to Kampot province was hit in a head-on collision by a truck carrying sand, seriously injuring three, including the van’s driver.
Choem Sitha, Dangkor district police chief, said the accident occurred on National Road 3 in the province’s Pong Toek commune. He said it seemed like the truck was attempting to overtake another vehicle when it hit the oncoming van.
“The traffic accident was caused by the driver of the sand truck, because he overtook [a vehicle] carelessly and veered into the lane of vehicle [minivan],” Sitha said, adding that the truck driver was, like his counterpart in Svay Rieng, at large.
Of the 16 passengers in the van, eight, including three who sustained serious head and leg injuries, were taken to the Preah Kusamak Hospital, while the remaining seven, including five children, were taken to National Pediatric Hospital, he said. One passenger who wasn’t injured left the scene of the crash on a moto taxi.
Khem Korn, 44, who was taking his wife back to Kampot after receiving treatment in Phnom Penh for a broken leg, said he had broken his left leg and his wife, one of the seriously injured trio, had suffered injuries to her head and legs.
“I passed out when the crash happened. I was seated behind the car driver,” he said. “I woke up to find that my leg was broken, and then someone pulled me out.”
Kampot resident Hout Vun, who received only minor injuries to his leg, said the van was travelling on the right side of the road when the truck attempted to overtake another vehicle.
“I saw it lose control, and then the crash happened,” he added.
Ear Chariya, director of the Institute for Road Safety, said there were few regulations for transportation companies, but that implementation was far from satisfactory.
He said the government needed to take steps to curb traffic accidents, one of the leading causes of deaths in Cambodia, by checking driver licences, conducting spot checks for vehicle safety and enforcing a crackdown on speeding.
“The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation used to conduct fleet training for transport companies, but conducted it three times in 2012 and not after that,” he added, adding that such efforts need to be sustained.
Those inspections came in the wake of a spate of well-publicised crashes that year.
Additional reporting by Ananth Baliga