A commuter minibus reportedly burst into flames after colliding with two cars on a highway bridge 54 kilometres south of Yerevan on Saturday. A photograph released by the Armenian Ministry of Emergency Situations showed all three vehicles engulfed by fire after what was one of the country’s deadliest road crashes in years.
The Investigative Committee said the victims were the driver and five female passengers of the minibus. A statement released by the law-enforcement agency suggested that they burned alive inside the vehicle that carried mostly residents of nearby villages. All but one of the charred bodies were identified by Monday morning, according to it.
The statement said seven other passengers suffered serious burns and required hospitalization. Three of them remain in a critical condition, it added.
The Investigative Committee reported later in the day that it has arrested one of the two car drivers on suspicion of causing the crash. The 63-year-old suspect, Soghomon Hakobian, was also seriously injured. A spokeswoman for the committee told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that Hakobian is intensive care at a hospital in Yerevan.
The earlier Investigative Committee statement said blood tests showed that neither Hakobian nor the other car driver was drunk. It said that investigators have questioned some of the injured individuals and eyewitnesses and will conduct forensic tests as part of their probe.
“The investigation is continuing,” read the statement. “All investigative actions are being taken to ascertain the circumstances of the accident and verify the circumstances mentioned in testimonies.”
Most cars and other vehicles in Armenia are powered by pressurized natural gas which is considerably cheaper than petrol.
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