The bus driver who died on a highway in Vietnam’s Central Highlands on Tuesday sacrificed his own life to save his passengers from flying off a cliff, a survivor said.
In the end, only two passengers and the driver Pham Thanh Long, 58, perished in the collision.
Nguyen Van Tam, 52, suffered sprains and was among the more fortunate of the 45 individuals injured in the bus crash in Lam Dong Province's Lac Duong District.
Tam recalled the events to news website VnExpress, expressing sympathy and gratitude for Long.
He said when the bus began slipping out of control, Long remained calm.
“People started to scream in panic as the bus went into a skid, wobbling between the edge of a cliff on one side and a mountain on the other,” he said.
“Then Long loudly announced he would ram the bus into the mountain. The outcome was terrible, but we don’t blame him.
“I think it was the only way he could stop the bus and prevent mass casualties,” said Tam who was seated in the rear of the vehicle.
He said Long had been careful from the beginning, nothing that he urged his passengers to wake up early to stay ahead of traffic and drove slowly the whole way.
“I had told my wife and child we could feel safe with the driver,” Tam said.
Long’s family said he'd safely ferried passengers along the route at least eight times since early June, according to VnExpress.
Police and transport officials in Lam Dong Province surround a site where a bus lost control and hit a cliff on August 5, 2014. Photo credit: VnExpress
Lam Dong officials are investigating the cause of the accident. They suggested that there may have been a problem with the brakes, as the bus lost control at least 100 meters before the crash.
Long and everyone aboard were from the Mekong Delta’s Long An Province. The passengers, aged between 5 and 84 years old, had rented the bus and hired Long to take them on an an organized summer tour.
The tragedy struck at 10 a.m. as they were on the way to the resort town of Da Lat -- the capital of Lam Dong Province, after spending two days in the nearby beach town of Nha Trang.
Nguyen Thi Kim Thoa, 49, who suffered minor injuries to her nose and arm, said she was asleep when the trouble began. She only remembered that the bus was running at very high speed and swaying.
“Then there was a bang. People were thrown around. I felt dizzy and passed out,” Thoa told VnExpress.
She woke up only to learn that three of her travel companions had died.
She said many people worked together to pull unconscious victims covered in blood out of the wreckage.
“Seven people in my family were on the bus," she said. "Two were severely injured, but luckily the two children weren't hurt.”
At least 45 passengers have been admitted to Lam Dong General Hospital and Hoan My Da Lat Hospital, including a Singaporean national only identified as Melissa -- a relative of a Long An local.
Doctors from Lam Dong General Hospital said the injured included officials from Long An’s Health Department. They forwarded the two most severe cases to Ho Chi Minh City’s Cho Ray Hospital on Tuesday evening.