Crowded coach plunges into river, killing 34


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The Independent Online

A crowded overnight bus plunged off a bridge into a river, killing 34 passengers and injuring 21 others in one of Vietnam's deadliest road accidents.

The 50-seat coach lost control and ripped through the bridge's guardrails on Thursday night, falling about 18 metres and landing on its top, partially submerged in the Serepok River.

"When the accident happened, everyone in the bus was sleeping," Nguyen Van Khanh, a survivor, told the news website Dan Tri. "I heard a noise like gunfire and then people were screaming when the bus was overturned ... I managed to escape through a window that was smashed open by others."

It took rescuers four hours to pull the bodies from the bus, using axes to free trapped passengers.

Photos showed a body hanging out the side of the ripped-open vehicle, which was hoisted out of the river by crane early yesterday.

The two drivers of the bus were among the 32 people who died at the scene. Two others died at the hospital. Of the 21 injured, 16 were in serious condition.

Another survivor, Trinh Van Mui, 34, said he was dozing on the back seat holding his three-year-old daughter.

"I heard a big boom and was knocked unconscious. I later found out that I was in the hospital with pain over all my body," he said by telephone from hospital, adding that he remembered nothing else from the crash. "We were very lucky to survive."

Vietnam has one of the world's highest traffic fatality rates, with more than 11,000 people killed each year. The vehicle was travelling from the central province of Dak Lak to Ho Chi Minh City.