Luan Ahmeti and Alban Ahmeti, 4-year-old twins from Albania, died tragically in a Bulgarian bus accident that erupted in flames on Tuesday, killing 45 people. The twins’ parents, Avni and Jihan, perished in the Bulgaria bus crash, as well.
Traveling from Istanbul, Turkey to Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, the bus swerved through a guardrail on the western Bulgarian highway, when the bus then exploded and caught fire. The Bulgarian Interior Ministry confirmed the accident, revealing that 45 of the 52 passengers had been killed, including at least a dozen children.
According to The Sun, plumes of smoke rose from the accident as first responders found Luan Ahmeti and Alban Ahmeti burned to death in their mother’s arms. They were near the front of the bus, which had been completely obliterated by the accident.
Authorities are currently investigating what happened to cause the bus to swerve and explode. They are also slowly uncovering information about victims in the crash on the Struma highway near the Bulgarian capital of Sofia.
Other victims included Gazmend Ukali, 27, and his fiancee Albina Belluli, as well as a young boy named Ergin.
“Ergin was my friend,” said Blerim Bushi, 11, a student at Ismail Qemali elementary school that lost five of their fellow classmates in the Bulgaria bus crash. “He was a very good boy. Very nice. I am so sorry that they died.”
Classes at the elementary school were suspended to give families time to grieve following the tragedy.
Speaking with The Sun, a Bulgarian man named Adnan Yasharovski, 45, said that his 16-year-old daughter, Zuleikha, called him from the crash to let him know that she survived. Traveling to see her at the hospital, he said that “she was crying” and “her hands were burnt but otherwise fine.”
“”She didn’t say much… she was in shock,” the father described. “I only saw her through the door as due to COVID, they did not let me into the room.”
Another unnamed survivor said that they were sleeping on the bus when they heard a large noise like a “powerful explosion.”
Authorities believe that people became trapped after the driver hit the guardrail and was unable to open the doors to let people escape. Survivors reported jumping through the windows in an attempt to escape.
“It is a terrible tragedy because many of them are children,” said North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. He visited the hospital on Tuesday following the Bulgaria bus crash and spent time speaking with the survivors.
Stanislav Vladimirov, mayor of Pernik, said that accidents were common on the Struma highway, but not as bad as Tuesday’s incident. “This is one of the most difficult routes in the country,” he told local reporters. “The road there has a very steep grade.”
According to The New York Times, Bulgaria has the second-highest amount of road traffic deaths in the European Union.
“The picture is terrifying, terrifying,” said Bulgarian Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov. “People are clustered inside and are burnt to ash… I have never seen anything like that before.”
“There is a guardrail here, which was simply taken away, which means that most likely for some reason the bus went to the right in the direction of travel and came into contact with the guardrail, which was simply destroyed,” Rashkov continued. “We heard all sorts of versions, including a fuel leak. I hope it will be clarified very soon and the colleagues from the investigation will do their job.”
A man named Osman, 31, told CNN that he is currently looking for answers with his sister, after telling authorities that he believes his parents were on the Bulgaria bus crash.
“We do not know if they were on the bus that crashed or not,” Osman said. “We have no information about them. The agency is not answering the phone. Perhaps we will need to go to Bulgaria.”