‘Brilliant’ Law Student Among Crash Victims

The owner of a truck that crashed into a minibus in Battambang province, killing nine Cambodians, including an accomplished law student, was being sought by police yesterday as relatives arranged funerals.

The head-on crash occurred during a rainstorm on Monday when a truck veered into the opposite lane in Mong Russei district, colliding with a Mekong Express minibus headed to Phnom Penh, said San Kimsan, the provincial traffic police chief.

Responsibility for the crash lay firmly with the truck, which had no license plate, and authorities were searching for its owner, he said. The truck’s driver was among the dead. The minibus flipped into a ditch on the side of the road after the collision, trapping the wounded.

Relatives removed the deceased’s bodies yesterday from the Kon Klong pagoda in Prey Touch commune, Mr. Kimsan said.

The victims included Heang Solinet, an accomplished law student and graduate of Phnom Penh’s Pannasastra University. She received a scholarship to Chiang Mai to continue her law studies, and then studied in Estonia at Tallinn University of Technology for 10 months, said her brother, Heang Virak.

Heang Solinet was returning from a visit to Thailand with her cousin, Yin Siv Chheng, who broke both legs in the crash and is currently hospitalized, he said.

Former teachers expressed deep regret upon hearing of her loss. Raymond Leos, the dean of faculty for Pannasastra’s communications and media arts department, described her as “a potential brilliant woman leader” in messages on Twitter.

“One of the very brightest and hardest working students I’ve ever encountered in Cambodia,” he wrote. “Though she came from a very humble background, she never let that stop her.”

Keng Channou, a coach for the Phnom Penh Crown football club, was among those injured in the crash, and was hospitalized yesterday in Battambang in critical condition, said Sam Schweingruber, the Swiss head coach of the club, who visited her in Battambang.

“She has blood in her brain and she has a broken backbone,” he said. “She is alive right now, but it is kind of 50-50.”

Mr. Kimsan said he was unsure of the condition of four others injured in the crash, who were currently hospitalized in Phnom Penh, Battambang and Thailand.

The truck, which has right-hand steering, was being held at the provincial police station, he said.

“The truck is the one that is responsible,” Mr. Kimsan said. “We are still searching—the owner of the truck hasn’t shown up yet.”

Mekong Express agreed to compensate the victims through its insurer, he added. Saingtha Havisey, an assistant to the president of Mekong Express, could not be reached for comment, and other employees of the company said they were not authorized to speak to the media.

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