By Karine Kalantarian
Four people were reportedly killed and at least twelve others injured on Monday when a commuter minibus carrying them crashed at a busy intersection in central Yerevan, one of the city’s worst traffic accidents in years.
A spokesman for the national Police Service, Sayad Shirinian, told RFE/RL that the old Soviet-made van rammed three cars parked by the adjacent sidewalk and flipped over after an apparent brake failure. He said some of the injured passengers were hospitalized in a critical condition.
Eyewitnesses saw the van lying upside down amidst shattered glass moments after the crash. Shirinian said it was making its first ride after undergoing repairs and that its driver was carrying passengers without a municipality license.
The driver’s whereabouts were not known as of late evening, with the police saying only that they have launched a criminal inquiry into the accident.
Hundreds of privately owned minibuses have become the principal means of public transportation in Yerevan in recent years. Many of them are very old and in a poor technical condition which is rarely inspected by the traffic police.
The vehicles operate dozens of transport routers that are run by different, much wealthier individuals who in turn lease those from the city administration at a modest price. Many of them are senior government officials or their relatives. The business is very lucrative.