An Australian woman was among four Save the Children staff members killed in a minibus crash on Friday afternoon when the minibus driver allegedly fell asleep at the wheel. Four others were severely injured in the accident in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district.
Sok Samnang, the Takeo provincial police chief, said 14 Save the Children employees were returning to Phnom Penh in a private minibus from a child protection workshop in Kep province when the incident happened.
They were travelling along National Road 3 when the vehicle left the road and hit a tree, killing three people at the scene. Another died at the provincial referral hospital.
Samnang said the driver, who is believed to have fallen asleep at the wheel, fled the scene after the incident. He is yet to be apprehended.
The NGO staff members were returning after a two-day workshop in Kep via Kampot province, where one Briton, who is associated with the NGO, alighted.
“Based on our assumptions, the driver must have fallen asleep as he was on a trip for two nights. The minibus was travelling at high speed when it ran off the road and hit a mango tree,” Samnang said. The injured were rushed to hospital.
The impact caused the minibus to nearly break in two. Samnang said a lack of blood at the scene suggested the victims suffered internal injuries.
“We are accusing the driver of careless driving. We are on the lookout to arrest him,” he said.
Save the Children confirmed that four members of its staff are in intensive care, while others received outpatient treatment before being discharged.
The organisation said they will ensure that all their team members get the best medical treatment and care possible and that they will do everything they can to help grieving families, friends and colleagues after the tragedy.
Save the Children Country Director Elizabeth Pearce confirmed that four members of the NGO’s staff – three women and a man – lost their lives in the accident, while four others were critically injured.
“This is a truly heartbreaking event and our condolences and thoughts go out to the families of all those who have been affected,” Pearce said. She said that Save the Children is in contact with the authorities as they conduct their investigation.
“Our primary concern is for the families, and we are providing support to help them through this incredibly difficult time. We are also supporting our staff, many of whom have been devastated by this tragic and sudden loss.”
Run Rath Veasna, head of the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Traffic and Public Order, said: “We again ask people to respect the law. Law enforcement is being strengthened, and those who violate it will be fined and have their vehicles impounded.”