Official: Human error is most likely the cause of the bus collision in Bulgaria

Officials said there were 52 people on the bus, most of whom were nationals of North Macedonia, one of the four who returned from Istanbul. Turkey. It hit the highway guardrail in western Bulgaria, caught fire and turned into a charred cannonball. Officials said that as both exits were blocked, passengers were trapped.

On Thursday, Bulgaria’s deputy chief prosecutor and director of the National Bureau of Investigation Borislav Sarafov ruled out terrorist acts and added that investigators had determined that there was no explosion.

Sarafov said at a press conference in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, that the current “main (event) version is human error.”

“The guardrail on the highway where the accident occurred is very dangerous and is one of the main causes of the accident,” he said. He added that investigators are checking whether the road traffic organization is not well organized, such as lane markings, lack of proper signs and reflectors, whether they might cause an accident.

Chief investigator Marian Marinov said that the bus driver tried to stop before hitting the guardrail, but he hit the guardrail, probably because it was dark and raining.

He said: “Witnesses said that after the first fire broke out, the bus soon filled with smoke.”

“Because of the fire there, no one can come out through the front door. Everyone gathered in front of the second door in the middle of the bus, but was blocked by the guardrail,” he said.

Sarafov said that forensic investigators have found 44 bodies so far, one less than the 45 officials initially reported. He called the difference a “mystery” and added that investigators are trying to determine whether a passenger has been transferred to another bus, or whether he has survived the accident.

Seven people are known to have survived-five citizens of North Macedonia, one Serb and one Belgian. They were taken to the Pirogov Emergency Hospital in Sofia and are in stable condition.

The chief prosecutor’s spokesperson Siyka Mileva said that one of the people who broke the window to escape the burning bus testified to the prosecutor that eight people jumped out of the car.

Sarafov said on Thursday that the victims died of fire smoke asphyxiation, not the crash. The official added that soot particles were found in their respiratory system.

Bulgarian Interior Minister Bojko Rashkov told reporters at the crash site on Tuesday that he had never “seen more terrible things.” The corpse must be identified by DNA testing.

The media in Bulgaria and North Macedonia described it as the deadliest bus accident in the history of the two countries.

The North Macedonian authorities revoked the license of the travel company that organized the trip and banned its travel business. In addition, two customs officials were suspended because they allowed the bus involved in the case to pass through the border without a vehicle license.

On Wednesday, in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, hundreds of elementary school students gathered outside Ismail Qemali School to mourn the six classmates who died in the accident.

“What happened is something that no one would want—(this is a) great tragedy,” said Metush Memedi, a teacher at the school. “We have five children from one family. Two of them are in the ninth grade, one in the eighth grade, one in the sixth grade, and one girl in the second grade.”

Skopje City Chairman Visar Ganiu said that the 16 victims of the crash came from his area.

“I want to express my condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of all those who lost their lives in this tragic accident,” Ganiu said. “We are also hurt with them.”

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McGrath reports from Bucharest, Romania. Konstantin Testorides of Skopje, North Macedonia contributed.

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