A father whose two children were killed when a bus the family was riding plunged 22ft over the side of a bridge and landed on its roof has spoken of his heartbreak.
Vladimir Vorobiyov, 21, choked back tears as he was interviewed from his hospital bed in Siberia about the crash that killed daughter Viktoria, two, and son Oleg, one.
The fate of Mr Vorobiyov’s 22-year-old wife Irina was unclear following the crash, which happened on a bridge crossing the Kuenga River, in far eastern Russia, on Sunday around 9am local time.
Nineteen people were killed in the crash, while another 21 were injured.
One-year-old Oleg (left) and sister Viktoria, two (right), were both crushed to death after a bus rolled 22ft off a bridge in eastern Russia on Sunday, killing a total of 19 people
Father Vladimir Vorobiyov, 21, who survived the crash, choked back tears in his hospital bed as he told of the moment he learned from relatives that his children were dead
Witnesses said Irina had died at the scene clutching her son so tight that the two bodies could not be separated, but she was also listed among survivors by the local Health Ministry.
Mr Vorobiyov – a former conscript in the Russian army – claimed the bus had been speeding on a treacherous road in subzero temperatures when it skidded and smashed through the barrier.
‘The driver was speeding, it was snowing, an icy road,’ he said. ‘People from the back of the bus said to him – ‘don’t go so fast.’
‘So we lost control, and we flew over the bridge, and then I remember nothing… That was it.’
He fought back tears as he said: ‘My wife is somewhere here (in hospital)… I just called my sister, and I was told my children are not alive any more.’
A total of 43 passengers and the driver were on the bus when it careered 22ft over the barrier the into the Kuenga River, 3,930 miles east of Moscow.
The river was shallow and its entire depth was frozen so it did not sink beneath the ice.
The fate of Mr Vorobiyov’s 22-year-old wife Irina (left holding daughter Viktoria, and right) is unclear following the crash. Witnesses said she died clutching her son, but local officials listed her name among the survivors
The bus – which was on its way from Sretensk to Chita – lost control around 9am Sunday before rolling off a bridge spanning the Kuenga River and on to solid ice below
Mr Vorobiyov (left front, and centre right) told how he recalled the bus falling but lost consciousness before the moment of impact and woke up in hospital
The bus was en route from Sretensk to Chita.
It veered off the road and overturned some 60 km (37 miles) from Sretensk,’ said an emergencies ministry spokesman.
One theory is that the Kia Grandbird bus suffered a burst tyre, another that it skidded on the bridge.
The driver, killed in the accident, was named as Sergey Kubasov, 43.
A criminal investigation into the accident has been launched.
Witness Natalia Ushakova was among those claiming on social media that Irina had been killed in the accident.
She wrote: ‘They could not remove the child from the arms of his mother (Irina).
‘She was holding him so tight, rescuers just could not prise open her arms… both were dead.’
Nineteen people were killed, including driver Sergey Kubasov, in the bus crash while another 21 people were injured
Investigators are looking into whether a tyre on the bus burst, causing the accident, or whether the driver lost control of the vehicle
Alexey Zakurdaev, the head of Sretensk District administration, said: ‘The bus fell on its roof. All passengers were crushed like inside a tin can.
‘Four of them managed to get out themselves.’
Survivor Olesya Gusevskaya added: ‘All of us were sleeping.
‘Only when the bus fell from the bridge were we all screaming.’
She said: ‘This is my second life. I don’t know why both my boyfriend and I were so lucky, but we both survived.’
Kindergarten teacher Zhanna Pestereva, 25, was among those killed, alongside her friend Ekaterina Gorkolenko, 25.
Ekaterina was a teacher. Both were mothers.
Kirill Konovalov, 18, a railway college student, was also killed in the crash.
Russia’s record on road safety is one of the worst in the world.
A total of 18,214 people died in road accidents last year, according to the country’s traffic police.
This compares to the 15,000 Red Army servicemen killed during the whole of the Soviet war in Afghanistan in 1979-1989.