By Shakeh Avoyan
Armenian investigators said Friday unsafe driving was the most likely cause of the previous night’s bus crash which killed ten passengers, including a six-month-old baby, and seriously injured 25 others. The bus carrying 35 passengers slipped into a gorge near the central town of Spitak on its way to the town of Stepanavan 150 kilometers north of Yerevan.
“The driver is definitely to blame for the accident,” said a senior police officer, Ruben Baloyan, as he inspected the crash site. He said preliminary results of the official inquiry show that the bus, making a left turn on a mountainous section of the highway, diverted to the opposite lane and slipped off a cliff into the gorge as it tried to avoid a head-on collision with another bus. Other law-enforcement officials said high speed or brake failure may have also contributed to the crash.
The Soviet-made vehicle rolled over several times down a 60-meter steep slope. Its mangled hulk was removed from the gorge in the afternoon after being examined by investigators.
The 48-year-old driver, identified as Seyran Sarkisian, was also hospitalized with a severe spinal injury. Tovmas Tovmasian, director of the bus station in Stepanavan where Sarkisian has worked since the early 1970s, said it was his first major accident. Tovmasian said the bus underwent a repair two days before the fatal journey. Officials at the Yerevan bus station who saw Sarkisian hours before the deadly crash ruled out the possibility of drunken driving.
Meanwhile, the Armenian government formed on Friday special commission to investigate causes of the bus crash. The commission is headed by David Zadoyan, minister for industrial infrastructures. President Robert Kocharian expressed his condolences to families of the victims.