Sixteen people died when a bus full of Cambodian tourists from Phnom Penh careened off a road and tumbled down a steep incline in the Dangrek Mountains in Oddar Meanchey province on Thursday morning after its brakes failed, according to police.
All 23 survivors of the crash in Anlong Veng district, including the driver, sustained serious injuries including broken limbs, according to Nov Som Orn, deputy director of the district referral hospital, where the wounded passengers were initially treated. Twenty-two of them were later transferred to the Siem Reap provincial referral hospital, he said, while one woman chose to go to Bangkok for treatment.
“As far as I can tell, the death toll could rise,” said Pen Phalkun, director of the Siem Reap hospital, adding that he was cutting short a mission in Phnom Penh to deal with the casualties personally.
Eap Bun Loeun, deputy director of the Siem Reap provincial health department, said one of the injured remained unconscious as of 6 p.m. last night and that the five most seriously injured passengers had been transferred to Phnom Penh for further treatment.
Thou Sophea, chief of the Oddar Meanchey provincial police’s traffic bureau, said that the bus, which was headed to Preah Vihear province from Phnom Penh, had taken a sightseeing detour in the Dangrek Mountains in Oddar Meanchey when the driver lost control of the vehicle.
“They went up to the Choam Sangam international checkpoint to buy things and get a view from the border,” he said. “When they came down, the bus drove too fast and failed to slow down at a bend.”
Mr. Sophea said that after studying the scene of the accident, including skid marks about 100 meters uphill from where the bus careened off the road, he determined that the vehicle had been traveling at 119 kph when the driver lost control. The speed limit on the road is 90 kph, he said.
“Our initial assumption is that the accident was due to a brake failure,” he said. “It is likely that the driver’s braking while traveling at high speeds caused them to fail.”
Mr. Sophea said the 16 bodies had been taken to Anlong Veng pagoda, where they would be kept until their relatives came to collect them.
According to provincial police chief Men Ly, the bus had been chartered by the group in Phnom Penh. He said there was nothing on the vehicle to indicate that it belonged to a particular company and that it was unclear whether the driver was also its owner.
Neang Obol, 45, a survivor who was being treated at Anlong Veng hospital, said that the entire group was from Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district and had hired the bus for a pilgrimage to the Taman and Ta Krobei temples in Preah Vihear for a Choul Voassa ceremony, scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
“It was a very bendy, steep road,” she recalled of the moments prior to the accident, adding that she had been sitting beside the driver, whom she did not know.
“I was sitting right next to him and we told the driver that he was going too fast, but he still drove fast,” she said.
Ms. Obol said the last thing she remembered was the bus overturning.
“I don’t know how many times the bus rolled down the hill, but when I woke up, I was outside the bus. I don’t know how I got out of the bus.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the bus left a 100-meter-long skid mark leading up to where it went off the road. Skid marks were found about 100 meters uphill from where the bus went off the road.