YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Five people were killed and two dozen others injured when an Armenian bus bound for Yerevan collided with a heavy truck in Russia’s North Caucasus region of North Ossetia early on Friday.
According to Armenia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations, two of the victims were Armenian citizens and the three others Russians.
A ministry statement said the bus was traveling from Moscow to Yerevan with a total of 52people aboard. At least 19 of them were reportedly hospitalized with injuries.
President Serzh Sarkisian expressed condolences to relatives of those killed and ordered his government and Armenia’s embassy in Russia to provide survivors of the crash with assistance. Sarkisian also ordered Armenian law-enforcement bodies to determine the cause of the deadly crash in collaboration with their Russian counterparts.
Russia’s Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov discussed the accident with Sarkisian and Prime Minister Karen Karapetian during a visit to Yerevan on Friday.
Citing “preliminary findings” of Russian investigators, the TASS news agency reported that the Armenian bus rammed into the truck parked on a roadside near the North Ossetian city of Beslan. It said Russian experts believe that the Armenian driver of the privately owned bus may have fallen asleep at the wheel.
The accident happened almost one year after eight Armenian passengers of another Yerevan-bound bus died when it drove off a highway in Russia’s Tula region just south of Moscow. Russian police officials suggested at the time that the bus driver or a technical malfunction were responsible for the crash. Shortly afterwards, the Armenian government announced plans to toughen licensing requirements for private transport firms providing bus services in and outside Armenia.