Nina Kristine, a 30-year-old Filipino woman, had her life turned upside down early Sunday morning when the bus to Vietnam she was sleeping on crashed into a parked truck in Prey Veng province.
Doctors at Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital have informed Ms Kristine that due to the severity of her injuries, they will have to amputate her right leg.
Early Sunday morning, a Kampuchea Angkor Express night bus from Siem Reap City to Ho Chi Minh City carrying 34 passengers plowed into a truck loaded with corn that was parked on the right-hand side of National Road 1, killing one passenger and seriously injuring several other foreign tourists.
Ms Kristine’s right leg was so badly fractured that doctors said it would need to be removed from below the knee, while her left leg also sustained injuries. Ms Kristine discussed her options with Filipino Embassy staff and a Filipino doctor living in Phnom Penh, and concluded she had to follow the advice.
“My family wants me to fly home, but they said it would take too long” to get evacuated, Ms Kristine said.
Recalling Sunday morning’s events, she said, “It was around 4 am. We were sleeping, and I heard a crash.
“Two [passengers] in front of us were pinned down. I was also pinned down,” Ms Kristine said, adding that a passenger behind her had become stuck underneath her chair.
After about two hours, the passengers were freed from the wreckage and taken to Prey Veng Province Referral Hospital, after which Ms Kristine and three others seriously injured were brought to Calmette Hospital late Sunday morning. Two injured Spanish women on the bus were taken to Royal Rattanak Hospital, a private clinic in Phnom Penh, according to staff there.
“They put us in the ambulance, which was very dirty. I was put on the floor, two other were on stretchers,” Ms Kristine said, adding, however, that Prey Veng medical staff had been friendly and helped her to call her family.
A concern on Ms Kristine’s mind now was if the Cambodian tour bus company had a liability insurance to cover her medical expenses and the loss of her leg.
In another hospital room, Indonesian sisters Irine Uilia, 26, and Maya Uilia, 28, were resting yesterday while receiving treatment. The sisters and their 20-year-old brother, Jevon, had been traveling with their parents when tragedy struck. Their brother, Jevon, died from injuries sustained in the crash.
“I was in the front row. Suddenly, there was a bang, and my [lower] teeth fell out,” said the oldest sister, who lost several teeth in the impact.
Nov Kea Vireak, Kampuchea Angkor Express’ manager, said the company did have insurance that would cover the passengers’ medical costs.
“We have insurance to cover them, no problem,” he said.
Mr Kea Vireak said 34 people had been on the bus. The company’s staff said they had not visited the hospital, but that insurance company representatives had gone there. However, the victims said yesterday that they had not met any representatives of the bus or insurance company.
Mr Kea Vireak put the blame for the accident in Pream Ro commune on a truck heavily loaded with corn, which he said had been parked on part of the right lane without any warning signs or lights.
“There was little space [on the road] due to the truck’s parking,” he said.
Preap Chanvibol, chief of the Interior Ministry’s road safety department, said, however, that according to police reports, the bus driver was at fault.
“It is the bus driver’s mistake, he was careless himself,” he said, adding that the driver will be brought to court.
Irishman Michael O’Riordan, 29, was still in intensive care at Calmette yesterday receiving treatment for a broken pelvis and internal injuries. Mr O’Riordan’s condition was, however, stable, according to doctors. He said during a brief talk that his sister would be visiting tomorrow and that he was likely to be scheduled for medical evacuation to Bangkok soon.
Ho Vandy, co-chair of the State-Private Tourism Working Group, said that the bus crash in Prey Veng province showed that improving road safety in Cambodia was important for the country’s tourism industry.
“A big concern is how to strengthen the traffic law…and which authorities will be responsible for that,” he said.
Cambodia’s roads have been marred by an avalanche of serious accidents in recent month that have left scores of people dead. Government figures released Sunday showed that 1,076 people died in traffic accidents during the first half of this year, a 14 percent jump compared to the same period last year.
With roads in the country continually improving, and the number of vehicles increasing, the nation’s roads are likely to see increases in the ever-growing death toll.
(Additional reporting by Phok Dorn)