Thirteen dead and four left in critical condition is the outcome of the tragic bus crash which happened on the Skopje – Tetovo highway this afternoon. A bus operated by the Durmo company was taking passengers from Skopje to Gostivar, when the driver lost control over the vehicle near the village of Laskarci.

The bus slid into the left lane and then off the highway, landing upside down in a ditch. Seven people died on the spot, while six more died after being taken to hospitals in Skopje. Healthcare Minister Venko Filipce informed that four remain in a very critical condition.

Eyewitnesses described a horrific scene where firemen had to use heavy machinery to turn the bus upright, before rescuers could approach the passengers. Villagers from Laskarci were first one the scene.

We could hear cries from the bus. We were cutting pieces of metal to get to the people and helped take 25 people to hospital with our own cars. All the while we were afraid that the bus can explode, it was smelling on gasoline, one of the villagers said.

Prosecutors will work on the scene during the evening, and the bus won’t be removed until tomorrow. A spokesman for the Public Prosecutor’s Office said that they are investigating the situation of the driver to determine if he was under influence while driving. Filipce would not comment when asked whether it is true that the driver suffered a heart attack and that this was the cause of the accident, only saying that police have talked to him.

This is one of the worst traffic accidents in recent Macedonian history, comparable to the sinking of a tour boat in Ohrid in 2009 which killed 15 tourists from Bulgaria. Condolences poured from all sides. Gostivar Mayor Arben Taravari arrived to Skopje to visit the injured passengers and called for prayers. Presidential candidates Gordana Siljanovska and Vladimir Gjorcev expressed condolences to the families of the deceased.