Bulgarian Bus Fire Leaves 45 Dead, Including 12 Children

A bus carrying passengers crashed and caught fire on a road in western Bulgaria early Tuesday, leaving at least 45 people dead. The victims included 12 children, authorities confirmed yesterday.

Interior Ministry Boyko Rashkov said seven people who jumped off the burning bus survived but suffered severe burns and were taken to a hospital in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, for treatment.

The incident occurred around 02:00 local time (00:00 GMT) when the vehicle hit a safety barrier on the Struma highway near Bosnek village, 28 miles (45 km) from Sofia.

The cause of the accident has yet to be determined. Senior officials said the bus had swerved off the motorway and ripped off a 50-meter section of the crash barrier. However, it was unclear whether that happened before or after the vehicle caught fire.

“The bus caught fire and crashed, or crashed and then caught fire,” they added.

Pictures of the aftermath broadcast by Bulgarian media showed the crash barrier shorn off in a road section. Authorities said that no other vehicles were involved in the tragic accident.

However, the nearby village of Pernik’s mayor told the media that accidents were often reported on that section as the motorway area was in poor condition.

Bulgarian national police chief Stanimir Stanev said 52 people were on board the bus, including the driver, and confirmed that 45 people had died. Among the victims were four-year-old twin boys, officers said later.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani told BTV that most bus passengers were tourists from North Macedonia, where the vehicle was registered, returning from a trip to Istanbul in Turkey.

According to Bulgarian media, the bus was traveling as part of a four-bus convoy. The other vehicles were a few minutes ahead and returned to their country safely.

Bulgarian authorities have not officially named the victims but said they included 12 children and many young people in their 20s and 30s. Albania’s foreign minister stated that most tourists belonged to an ethnic Albanian community in North Macedonia.