Story By: Ana Marjanovic, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash
Footage has emerged of people preparing to board the ill-fated bus that burst into flames after crashing killing 45 people including 12 children.
Security cameras at the hotel where many of the passengers were staying in Istanbul captured the moment they were leaving in order to catch the bus back home.
Among the dead were these twins (pictured) who were just two of the 12 children and 33 adult passengers who burned alive inside the bus when it crashed and burst into flames on a Bulgarian motorway.
The latest information from the Bulgarian Pernik region Security Secretary Vasko Pirgov is that the bus was travelling at 100 kph (62 mph) when it crashed, apparently without breaking, and a fire began at the front of the vehicle. Those who survived were at the back of the bus and managed to break a window in order to climb out.
The official said that it was unlikely that the driver fell asleep as only 30 minutes before, they had stopped for a break at a service station for around 30 minutes.
The fire that followed the crash was so intense that many of the victims were burned beyond recognition, with forensics teams sent to try to identify the bodies.
The bus was travelling along the Struma motorway in south-western Bulgaria on its way from Istanbul to North Macedonia’s capital Skopje when it caught fire, resulting in the death of 45 passengers at around 2.00 am this morning, Tuesday 23rd November.
Among the seven to survive were Luljzim Sulejmani from Presevo in Serbia and his fiancee from Kumanovo in northern Macedonia (pictured).
Only a few hours before, they had posted photos on social networks of them holding hands, not realising what was awaiting them. Both are currently hospitalised in Sofia and according to Bulgarian officials, all seven are expected to survive.
Among the dead were the four-year-old twins, Luan Ahmeti and Alban Ahmeti and their mum and dad Avni Ahmeti and Jihan Ahmeti, all from Albania.
Gazmend Ukali, 27, and his fiancee Albina Belluli, 23, also died in the fire. They were returning from Istanbul after celebrating Gazmend’s birthday in the historic city.
The bus entered Bulgaria at around 9.00 pm last night at the “Kapitan Andreevo” border crossing and it burst into flames several hours later for reasons that are currently not known.
Zoran Zaev, The Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia, released a statement about the incident after arriving in Bulgaria to visit the survivors.
In the statement released earlier today, 23rd November, Zaev said that there are only seven survivors who managed to get out of the bus by smashing the windows. The youngest survivor is just 15 years old.
He added that the “tragedy is great”, as the majority of the victims are aged between 25 and 30 and 12 of them are children, including the twins.
The oldest passenger to die in the fire was an unidentified 63-year-old.
The survivors have been taken to the Pirogov Hospital in Sofia where Zaev plans to meet with them later on in the day.
Many of them have suffered burns to their faces and hands, and their upper airways have been damaged, said Professor Maja Argirova, who is the head of the burns clinic in Pirogov.
Argirova added: “People are in severe trauma, they have lost relatives, children. They jumped from the windows of the bus, so they got injured.”
Minister Rashkov, the Bulgarian Interior Minister, told local media: “I have never seen such horror.”
Borislav Sarafov, Deputy Prosecutor General, described it as a “human tragedy unknown in its magnitude.”
The investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing as is the process of identifying the bodies.