Speeding was a factor in a tragic accident that killed fifteen people when a coach veered off a major highway and overturned in western Turkey in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Travelling from Balıkesir towards Edremit, investigators believe the vehicle went into a bend at a speed of 95 km (59 mph). The driver hit the brakes hard, leaving 45 metres worth of skid marks before the coach went off the road and landed in a field by the Balıkesir OSB Çevre Yolu (Ring Road).
The crash site was a scene of devastation with the front and roof of the severely damaged vehicle crumpled, and the personal effects of those on the bus strewn across a large area.
The incident occurred at 4.40am local time (0140 GMT). Emergency services declared 11 people dead at the scene. Four others died later in hospital.
The governor’s office of Balıkesir province confirmed that 17 other people who were injured in the crash were being treated in five different hospitals. Three had since been released.
The coach’s two drivers Kerem Kader Başrol and Cengiz Umut were among those who lost their lives. Başrol had replaced his driver colleague Onur Güneş at the last minute after Güneş complained that he wasn’t feeling well.
In a message on social media posted after the fatal accident, Güneş wrote: “My dear friend Kerem, I saw you off last night. You got me out of the vehicle and said to me. ‘Go home brother’. You told me, ‘You can come tomorrow evening’. You made me sad brother.”
Relatives of bus driver say vehicle was “faulty”
Talking to media after the funeral of their stepbrother Başrol, Serkan and Erkan Çengelcik blamed the coach firm for the crash, stating that Başrol had been forced to replace the sick driver without being fully rested. They also claimed the vehicle was not roadworthy and was in need of repair.
Rejecting claims the driver was asleep at the time of the accident, the Çengelcik brothers told the press:
“They say false things. It is false that he slept. The vehicle has a fault. I have the message. We are really sorry. My brother is gone, there are those who died. I am truly sorry for all the families. I have no words to say. I’m having a hard time.
“We grew up together, we were very close. The message claims that the vehicle is faulty. According to the information given by the gendarmerie, a sleeping person does not apply the brakes for 45 meters. A sleeping person has no chance to brake 45 meters.
“My brother was a very careful person who took responsibility for everyone. We will also complain. What will we say to these families? We gave all the statements to the gendarmerie.”
Coach owners claim crash investigation will be “transparent”
Following the accident, the owners of the Efe Tur coach issued a statement:
“Today, we have suffered very painful losses in the traffic accident that took place within the borders of Balıkesir province in the early hours of the morning. We wish God’s mercy on those who lost their lives. Although there is no remedy for this pain, we share the pain of the families wholeheartedly.
“We wish the injured a speedy recovery, and will follow the treatment processes with all our efforts. We would like to emphasise that along with what led to the accident, the process examining it will be shared with the public in the most transparent way. Our deepest condolences to all.”
Izmir minibus crash kills 8
On the same day as the Balıkesir crash, another fatal road accident in Izmir claimed the lives of eight people and injured nine.
The driver of a minibus travelling from Kınık to Kemalpaşa district lost control at a bend Hamzababa, overturning as it came off the road.
The vehicle went through the crash barriers and flipped over, only coming to stop as it struck trees. Two children were among the fatalities.
Main image, top, of crash site from Onedio / Twitter