Forest rangers in the central Vietnamese province of Nghe An said the timber seized from a truck which overturned on a highway Wednesday, killing 10 men in it and injuring five others, had been smuggled.
The vehicle overturned on National Highway 48C in the mountainous district of Con Cuong at around 3:30 a.m. after reportedly slipping down a slope.
Seven men died on the spot and the other three died on the way to a nearby hospital. The five others in the truck, including the driver, sustained serious injuries.
Preliminary investigation found that the 12 men sitting on the timber at the back were crushed under its massive weight.
On Thursday Le Cao Binh, chief of the provincial Forest Management Department, told Thanh Nien the timber had been smuggled.
The department has asked the police to investigate an eyewitnesses report that a man in a forest ranger's uniform sneaked out of the truck's cabin after it overturned and fled in a car that arrived at the scene to pick him up.
Online newspaper Dan Tri reported that the timber belonged to an illegal logger who was now a tycoon, and the victims had been hired by him to load the timber on the truck.
Colonel Nguyen Dang Viet, chief of the Con Cuong District police, said around four cubic meters of timber had been seized.
But he admitted that some timber had been removed from the truck before the police showed up.
He also admitted that the truck had gone past a forest rangers station in Xieng Mi Commune before the accident occurred.
"We will investigate why the forest management officers let the truck with smuggled timber through," he said.
The police have confiscated the timber and the truck and are investigating.