Driver in deadly Vietnam crash high on liquor, heroin

By Cuu Long, Hoang Nam   January 3, 2019 | 03:00 pm GMT+7
Driver in deadly Vietnam crash high on liquor, heroin
A motorbike is badly damaged after being hit by a truck in Long An Province Wednesday. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

The truck driver who plowed into motorbikes waiting at a traffic light has tested positive for liquor and heroin.

Police say that 32-year-old truck driver Pham Thanh Hieu, who surrendered hours after causing a most horrific accident Wednesday that killed four and badly injured 16 others, had high concentrations of alcohol in his blood and also tested positive for heroin.

One of the worst traffic accidents in the southern province of Long An prompted Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh to order an urgent investigation into its cause as also steps to overcome its consequences.

At around 11 p.m., the driver was taken to the province’s general hospital for urine and blood tests. Three hours later, he was tested again, and the results of the first tests were confirmed. Normally, a drug test that uses urine samples can detect heroin metabolites for one to three days after the last drug use.

Pham Thanh Hieu, 32, is held at local police station after the accident that killed four and injured 16 others. Photo courtesy of Long An Police

Pham Thanh Hieu, 32, is held at local police station after the accident that killed four and injured 16 others. Photo courtesy of Long An Police

Hieu is being held for further investigation, facing charges of "violating road traffic regulations that cause serious consequences," a crime punishabe by up to 15 years in jail under Vietnam's Penal Code.

Camera footage shows the truck speeding towards the crowd of motorbikes waiting at the traffic light without any sign of slowing down. In the ensuing crash, many motorbikes were dragged for over 150 meters before the truck came to a halt.

Horrible nightmare

Survivors of the fatal road crash called it a horrible nightmare.

Three people were killed on the spot and another succumbed to injuries in the hospital. Sixteen were injured. Survivors and eyewitnesses were still in panic as they recalled the heart-stopping moments of the accident.

Vo Van Tin, 28, and his girlfriend were on their way back from the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang to Binh Duong Province after the four-day New Year holiday break.

While he and many other drivers had stopped their vehicles at the red traffic light at the Binh Nhut crossroads in Ben Luc District, around 60 kilometers southwest of Ho Chi Minh City, the truck driver hit them without any warning as people looked on in horror and fear.

Lying in the emergency room of a local clinic with minor injuries to his legs and shoulders, Tin said: "I was waiting at the red traffic light, I heard a loud noise. When I turned my head, I saw the truck knock down many drivers and motorcycles and rush towards me."

"It was really frightening. The scene at that time looked like a war zone," said an eyewitness Dang Truong Giang.

Rescue efforts

Many passers-by and local residents put aside their fear of the pools of blood and took injured victims to the hospital.

Dang Truong Giang said he was in the sand at the foot of Ben Luc Bridge near the accident scene when he heard a loud noise, and then big screams and cries.

"When I got there, I saw a horrific sight, like it was wartime. Three people lay in their own blood. Some other people and I took them on the ambulance."

Tran Quoc Loi, 31, a xe om motorbike taxi driver, parked his vehicle at a nearby coffee shop and rushed to the scene to help carry the injured victims to the hospital.

Unbearable grief

Victims of the deadly crash are being treated at Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Le

Victims of the deadly crash are being treated at Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Le

Relatives of the ill-fated victims screamed in sorrow and cried, unable to accept the truth. The parents of Mai Huynh Duc, 20, one of the four dead victims, wailed and called out their son’s name while waiting at the local medical center to bring his body home for the funeral.

Another man, Sau, fainted at the scene after seeing his wife’s mangled body.

Road crashes are a leading cause of deaths in Vietnam, killing almost one person every hour. A total of more than 18,720 traffic accidents occurred in 2018, killing 8,244 people and injuring nearly 14,800, according to the National Traffic Safety Committee.

During the four-day New Year holiday 136 accidents were recorded, in which 111 people died around Vietnam and another 54 were injured, according to the Traffic Police Department.

This was a significant increase in fatalities from last year, when 67 died in three days.

Drug using is not rare among Vietnamese truck drivers, who need to survive their heavy workload, according to people familiar with the matter.

An inspection by the transport ministry of 136,000 drivers in 2014 found 526 of them using drugs.

 
 
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