A minibus packed with commuters collided with a car in unclear circumstances that are investigated by police.
Eyewitnesses said both vehicles instantly caught fire and burned down as a result. Their drivers died in the accident. The two other victims were minibus passengers.
Another passenger, a 7-year-old boy, was hospitalized and remained in a critical condition on Wednesday. He suffered severe burns which a hospital doctor said damaged 25 percent of his skin.
The boy’s 21-year-old uncle, Gegham Gabrielian, was also treated in a Yerevan hospital. “I immediately got out [of the minibus,]” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Then I got out my wife and sister’s child. I don’t remember what happened next.”
The Armenian police were quick to launch a criminal investigation into the deadly accident. Police officials avoided blaming anyone for it on Wednesday.
But Henrik Navasardian, head of the transport department at the Yerevan municipality, said the 24-year-old driver of the Mercedes car that rammed the minibus is most probably to blame for the crash.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Navasardian disputed suggestions that the possibly faulty liquefied gas system of the Russian-made Gazel minibus was responsible for the rapid fire and the resulting loss of life.
Gazels and other minibuses, virtually all of them privately owned, have been the principal means of public transportation in the Armenian capital since the mid-1990s. Their technical condition has long raised questions.