Sun, 28 Dec 2003

Army vehicle rams minibus, kills 18

Slamet Susanto and Agus Maryono, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta/Purwokerto

An armored military vehicle crashed into a public transportation minibus on Saturday in Temanggung regency in Central Java, killing 18 people and injuring seven others.

Sixteen of the fatalities were passengers on the minibus and the driver, and the two others were military personnel.

The accident occurred when three armored vehicles, belonging to the Army's Ambarawa Cavalry Division in Ambarawa, were returning in convoy from military exercises in Kebumen, another regency in Central Java. One of the Army vehicles apparently tried to overtake a car but it hit the minibus head on as it was coming in the opposite direction.

The minibus was knocked into a four-meter-deep ravine, followed by the errant Army vehicle.

The chief of Temanggung police precinct, Adj. Sr. Comr. Widiyatno, said that the vehicle, which was made in France in 1963, had crossed over the center line on the two-lane highway.

"It could be seen from its skid marks," he said.

The two military personnel killed were Chief Corp. Monte as well as Yurman, a civil servant working as a technician in the Cavalry Division.

All the injured victims, three more military personnel and four minibus passengers, were rushed to Sujono military hospital in Magelang.

Brig. Gen. Salim Mengga, the Chief of Staff of the Diponegoro Military Command overseeing Central Java province, confirmed the incident, but defended the Army driver, saying he did not violate any procedures. He added that the armored carrier, with six personnel aboard, was probably only traveling at approximately 20 kilometers per hour.

"Another vehicle in the convoy passed first and flashed his lights at the minibus driver to signal that there was another vehicle coming, but the accident still occurred," he said.

The deadly accident was the second of its kind in the past two months. In November, an armored personnel carrier overturned after its brakes apparently failed near Sulambe Baru village in Aceh Singkil regency, killing a television cameraman, Arie Waylan Orah, while five military personnel and another journalist were wounded.