Sankt Augustin · A trail of devastation runs along a row of shops in Sankt Augustin on Monday morning. Destroyed shop fronts, shattered windows and concrete debris line the path where a kiosk, barbershop and other smaller establishments lie next to each other.
At around 9.15 a.m., a bus left the road on Engelsgraben in Niederpleis. It crashed into a parked taxi and several shops before finally coming to a halt on the façade of a mosque. Five people - the bus driver, three passengers and a taxi driver - escaped with minor injuries.
Talking to eyewitnesses and those affected on the spot, it becomes clear that the crash could have ended much more seriously. The bus was apparently completely out of control and the lives of passers-by were in danger. Witnesses all reported hearing a loud noise before the bus rammed into a fence.
Bus accident in Sankt Augustin: Woman saw the bus go astray
Sossen Tocai had passed the spot shortly before the crash. She was on her way to the bus she takes every day to her job in Siegburg. Only instants separated her and the collision, she believes. "If I had been going just a tiny bit slower, I would be dead now," says Tocai. She watched as the bus missed her and continued its odyssey. She did not stay at the scene of the accident but drove to work in tears. She had not wanted to leave her colleagues in the lurch. But she could not remain there. Still in shock, she made her way back home.
Taxi driver jumped out of his vehicle
After colliding with the fence, the bus headed for a parked taxi in which the taxi driver Reza Ranjbarfar was sitting, reading a book. The 61-year-old was startled by the noise coming from the bus and the collision with the fence. He looked up and found himself looking into the face of the bus driver, with the vehicle heading straight towards him. The bus was three to four metres away from him when he jumped out of his taxi. The bus then rammed the taxi head-on and flung it to the side. Ranjbarfar sustained only minor injuries in his jump. "The bus picked up my car and then drove towards the shops," the taxi driver recounted. "I was scared and am still in shock," he reports, saying, "I was lucky."
Asllan Asllanaj is standing just a few metres away. He sees the bus ram the taxi and a van and head towards his shop. "I thought the bus was going into my shop, but luckily it passed it," says the kiosk owner. He says the bus was travelling at high speed. Through a subway next to the kiosk, it drove towards a mosque, where it finally came to a standstill. The bus driver got off. He looked injured. Asllanaj further reported that the driver said that he had not been able to brake. Asllanaj also reported a loud noise before the bus started on its collision route. "I thought a tank was coming," the kiosk owner reports.
Fire brigade on bus accident: "It could have been a lot worse"
The police have not yet said anything about the cause of the crash, as it is still under investigation, according to spokesperson Stefan Birk.
Asllanaj, who saw the incident with his own eyes, believes it was an accident. He thinks it is impossible that the bus deliberately drove towards the row of shops. "The bus was making a loud noise beforehand, it must have been broken," he says.
While the accident ended comparatively mildly for all involved, the emergency services were busy cleaning up on Monday. "When we arrived here, we were faced with a debris field," says Sascha Lienesch, spokesperson for the Sankt Augustin volunteer fire brigade. The bus had damaged four shops, some of them seriously. "I can't say how fast it was travelling, but there must have been a lot of force behind it," says the fire brigade spokesman. The wall of the mosque where the bus came to a stop was also dented. "There was a lot of luck involved," says Lienesch. No bystanders were injured by the bus or by flying glass and debris. "We have a busy neighbourhood here," he said. "It was very lucky that everyone got off lightly, even those involved in the accident."
(Original text: Andreas Dyck; Translation: Jean Lennox)