Tourist bus crashes, kills nine

  • 2004-12-22
  • By The Baltic Times
RIGA 's A tourist bus loaded with New Year's tourists from Russia toppled over on a Latvian road early on the morning of Dec. 31, killing nine people on board.

Latvian rescue services said that the Ecolines bus, which had been carrying 63 tourists from Moscow, had apparently been driving too fast on an icy road in the Jekabpils district in the southeast part of the country before it flipped over onto its roof at 5 a.m. this morning.

Thirty-one people were hospitalized in nearby Rezekne and Jekabpils, and other in Riga. None of the hospitalized victims are in critical condition, but some reportedly had "serious" injuries.

Road police chief Edmunds Zivtins said on the scene that the cause of the tragedy was "undoubtedly the wrong choice of speed."

"The bus flipped up in the air and landed on its roof like a pancake," he said.

Zivtins also said that surviving passengers had claimed that the bus was traveling very fast. He added that the road was so thoroughly covered in ice it was "like a mirror."

Ecolines chairman Andris Podgornijs said that he was sure that nearly all the victims were Russian nationals. The mostly young tourists had been travelling to Riga to celebrate New Year's.

Seven of the nine who perished were under thirty.

The double-decker belongs to Latvia's Norma-A, an international bus operator carrying the Ecolines trademark. The bus was carrying 62 tourists, two drivers and a stewardess.

The police detained the driver, 47, after the incident, and a local court ruled to place him under house arrest. A criminal case involving negligence has reportedly been opened against the driver.