42 Dead 85 Injured in 3 Bolivian Bus Accidents in 1 Week
Bolivian bus lines and their drivers continue to be unbelievably careless and cause an unprecedented number of deaths and injuries on Bolivian roads. Between June 24th and 28th three bus accidents have left a total of 42 dead and 85 injured (some of these may not survive).
One accident took place between Potosí and Cochabamba during which a bus driver's assistant began screaming for people to exit through the back of the bus as it hit a bridge guard rail and plunged 85 meters into a river. Many of the passengers were children and babies. Some drowned, and others were flattened beneath the bus or pinned between the twisted metal of the wreck. The injured and dead were taken to hospitals and morgues by other buses and private vehicles who stopped to help.
Passengers claimed the driver's assistant was screaming that the brakes had failed. Just 3 days earlier another bus traveling from Cochabamba went off the road and on Monday morning two buses collided head on near Oruro.
The total from these 3 accidents is 42 dead and 85 injured. In all three accidents passengers claimed the drivers were driving too fast. Many of the passengers were young university students returning from a large university conference that took place this past week in Cochabamba. Others were families with children who just got out of school for winter vacation. One bus had 72 passengers even though its passenger roster listed only 47. It is not uncommon for buses to take on extra passengers along the road, even if these passengers have to ride sitting on the floor or standing up."Quillacollo police said they found a driver and owner of one of the buses, Rodolfo Gandarillas. The driver was sleepy, his eyes were red, his teeth were stained green from chewing so much coca, and his breath smelled of alcohol. He claimed he was not drunk and that he had just returned from an event in Llallagua. The police took him to a clinic to do a test for alcohol."
(Quote translated from Spanish article found in El Deber newspaper here
Meanwhile police in Santa Cruz have stepped up their checks of buses at the Terminal Bimodal prior to leaving this city. What they are finding is buses that are not well maintained, alcohol underneath and near drivers seats, fire extinguishers that are outdated and not working, and first aid kits that are empty, rusted or non-existent. However, one police officer angrily stated "no matter how much we check them here at the bus station it's useless if the drivers don't do their part. Once they're between cities there isn't anyone to check on them."
Several months ago the Bolivian government passed a law to sanction bus drivers who cause accidents if they are under the influence of alcohol by taking away their driver's licenses for the rest of their lives. Bus drivers throughout the country reacted by protesting the law for several days. It is unclear if this law is actually being applied.