Two weeks after the bus accident: Passengers testify, still no culprit

Two weeks after the tragic bus accident on the Skopje-Tetovo highway, the authorities still have no answer to the key question: what was the reason that the bus owned by Durmo Tours went off road and took fifteen passengers to death. The Public Prosecutor’s Office says that the investigation is still ongoing, prosecutors are still hearing testimonies from the passengers, but their statements cannot be completed due to the some of the passengers’ health condition.

“We have been provided with the autopsy findings of the deceased, as well as some of the documentation we requested from the Gostivar-based carrier, while we are waiting for the rest of it. We are in the process of testing the expertise we ordered, and the driver of the bus is questioned as well, stated the Prosecutor’s Office for Nezavisen Vesnik/Independent Daily Newspaper.

Yesterday’s health balance from Skopje-based hospitals says that two of the injured passengers are still fighting for their lives. One of them is treated at the September 8th hospital, and the other is at the Mother Teresa Clinical Center. Seven injured passengers are treated at the September 8th hospital, and four are hospitalized at the Mother Teresa Center: KARIL, Neurology, Trauma and Thoracic Surgery.

The focus of the Prosecutor’s Office is on the bus’s condition, considering that in January the vehicle passed the technical check-up at the Auto-Moto Association Gostivar, owned by Durmo Tours, and whether there was fault in the 49-year-old driver, did he lose control over the steering wheel, and for what reasons, that is, whether it got stuck or whether he was looking at his mobile phone. No alcohol and psychotropic substances were found in the driver’s blood. The authorities have already stated that he has received death threats.

The owner of the Gostivar-based company, Durmish Beluli, claims that the bus was in good condition, and that at the time of the accident the driver was conscious and that he had not previously reported any health problems.

The initial information was that the bus was driving at a speed of about 80 kilometers per hour, but the prosecution is waiting for it to be confirmed after the expert’s testimony – a device that records the speed of movement and to determine whether it worked correctly and whether it has been previously stuck.

The opposition VMRO-DPMNE and the Alliance of Albanians saw the institutions’ failings in dealing with the consequences of the crash. Zijadin Sela’s party demanded independent expertise and formation of an inquiry commission in the Parliament, fearing possible political influences in the investigation, alluding to the closeness of DUI officials in Gostivar with the owner of Durmo Tours.

VMRO-DPMNE officials wonder why the Emergency Plan was not activated, why Crisis Headquarters was not formed to deal with the situation, because around the scene of the accident was not provided a perimeter so that only professionals would have access to the bus, why there were no medical teams at the scene of the bus accident to provide first aid to the injured, who was the one who decided that 35 of the injured should be taken to the September 8th hospital, with what kind of staff this hospital has, because no one was taken to private hospitals when they were praised for helping, why a special hotline for relatives was not available so they could get first-hand information, why specialists from other hospitals were not invited to help, etc.

SDSM says that VMRO-DPMNE is trying to collect small political points in a morbid manner.

“Thanks to the prompt, efficient and timely intervention of our healthcare services, emergency medical services, the fire department and the police, we prevented an even greater disaster. The entire healthcare system was activated within 15 minutes after we received information of the crash, and the teams and services of the Ministry of Healthcare showed maximum professional engagement in saving the lives of the seriously injured people,” SDSM said.