Two men died and another broke his legs on Friday when their van, which was carrying valuable timber, overturned as they attempted to flee a police checkpoint on National Road 7 in Kratie province, police said Sunday.
The Korean-made Ssang Yong van, which was carrying first-grade Sokrom and Phchek logs, had a tire punctured before veering off the road and crashing into a concrete barrier in Snuol district’s Snuol commune early Friday, according to deputy district traffic police chief Yoeun Phan.
Kem Art, 30, who was driving the van, died at the scene of the crash, while Chhorn So, 31, succumbed to his injuries at the district referral hospital later that day, Mr. Phan said.
Kem Vat, 28, suffered two broken legs and a broken arm and is being treated at the Kompong Cham provincial referral hospital, he added.
“When they saw the police checkpoint, they tried to drive the van at high speed to escape,” Mr. Phan said, adding that police only attempted to stop the vehicle when they noticed it was transporting wooden poles.
Mr. Phan and commune police chief Thay Lithon rejected local media reports, citing unnamed villagers, that claimed that police had been pursuing the van when it crashed about 2 km from the checkpoint.
Mr. Lithon said the victims were from Tbong Khmum province and had been transporting the 30 pieces of wood to be used as support poles at a pepper plantation.
“They tried to smuggle the wooden poles from Snuol district to their destination, a pepper plantation in Tbong Khmum province,” he said.
“Police tried to stop them to check [the wood], but they fled and got into an accident by themselves,” he added.
Chan Sokim, Snuol district police chief, said police tried to save Chhorn So, the passenger who died at the hospital.
“The driver died at the scene, and police brought the injured victims to the hospital, but one among them died,” he said.
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