Three people were killed and five were injured in Takeo province on Sunday when their SUV smashed head-on into a packed tour bus that may have been trying to overtake another vehicle, according to authorities.
Provincial traffic police chief Pok Pulrith said Monday that the bus, operated by the Phnom Penh Sorya Transportation company, was on the way to Kep province from Phnom Penh when it hit the Honda CR-V on National Road 31 at about 12:30 p.m.
“Witnesses told our authorities that the bus was driving from Phnom Penh to Kep province and was trying to overtake another car when it hit the CR-V head-on,” Mr. Pulrith said.
“We are now building the case to send to the provincial court,” he said. “We will not send the case to court today because our authorities are still collecting information to find the cause of the accident.”
Mr. Pulrith said three people in the Honda died at the scene of the crash while five others—accounting for everyone in the SUV, all of them related—were sent to the provincial referral hospital with serious injuries. He said the bus ended up in a shallow pool of water next to the road, though none of the more than 30 people on board was injured and the driver fled the scene.
The police chief said he did not know the names of the victims, and that their relatives had already retrieved the bodies for cremation.
Y Rattana, Sorya Transportation’s head mechanic, said the driver had returned to Phnom Penh and was staying at the company’s head office.
“The driver fled because he was afraid people would beat him to death,” he said.
Contrary to police, Mr. Rattana claimed that witnesses he spoke with at the scene told him that it was the SUV that veered into the wrong lane, and not the bus.
“I think the driver of the CR-V made the mistake because that driver was careless and hit our bus,” he said. “We are not responsible for the accident because the CR-V hit our bus.”
Traffic accidents typically spike over the Pchum Ben holiday, as many Cambodians take to the roads to visit relatives in the provinces. The public holiday began on Sunday and ends today.
Run Rathveasna, head of the Interior Ministry’s public order department, said 17 people had died in road accidents across the country on Sunday and on Monday, compared to 22 people over the same two-day period last year.
He attributed the slight drop to the new traffic law—which was passed last year but is not set to be implemented until January 1—and to police stepping up their efforts to prevent people from traveling on the roofs of taxi vans, which used to be a common practice.
“We have been telling taxi drivers to not allow people to sit on the roofs of their vehicles and that if they break the law, we will stop them [from driving] for three days,” he said.