The bus driver allegedly at fault in Tuesday’s fatal crash in Svay Rieng province was yesterday charged with death caused by reckless driving, as police opened an investigation into whether tonnes of goods found on the bus were illegally imported.
Le Vang Phing, 43, had been driving the bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh when the accident happened, after he attempted to overtake a sedan at high speed and ended up ploughing into an oncoming van loaded with commuting workers.
“He was charged and is now at the provincial prison,” said Svay Rieng provincial traffic officer Tie Hiebsie at the provincial court yesterday.
Hiebsie said Vietnamese national Le had been charged, after initially being placed in detention following his arrest at the scene on Tuesday.
Investigating judge Heng Phally, who presided over Le’s hearing, declined to comment on the case, while provincial deputy prosecutor Orng Ry could not be reached for comment.
At the time of the crash, the minivan had 39 people on board, 18 of whom were killed.
There were only six people aboard the bus, which was loaded up with almost 8 tonnes of goods, including more than 6 tonnes of clothing and various other items, such as shampoo, door locks and books.
Authorities are currently verifying that the goods were legitimately imported.
“We are transporting them to the customs office to check them against their documents,” said Svay Rieng customs officer Nguon Vuth yesterday.
Meanwhile, the bus was dragged away from the crash site on Tuesday and left outside Svay Rieng provincial police station to prevent it being burned by locals outraged by the incident.
“If they had burnt it, the van, the homes of villagers near the road, would be burned too,” a policeman was overheard saying outside Svay Rieng provincial police station.
Le’s charging comes amid a swirl of demands from victims’ friends and family members for him to face justice.
“I want the authorities to put the Vietnamese driver in prison for the rest of his life because he crashed and killed many villagers,” said Hing Bros, 49, yesterday morning at a funeral held for one of the victims at Svay Chrum province’s Svay pagoda.