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Seven killed and 16 injured as a van overloaded with migrants crashes in southern Germany

The people on board were Syrian and Turkish citizens. A police patrol tried to stop it, but the driver, a 24-year-old stateless man resident in Austria, didn’t react and accelerated to 180 kph (112 mph)

Detained migrants sit in a police van near Frost, Germany, 11 October 2023.
Detained migrants sit in a police van near Frost, Germany, 11 October 2023.Filip Singer (EFE)

A van packed with migrants crashed at a highway junction in southern Germany on Friday after the driver accelerated to avoid a police check, killing seven people and injuring 16, authorities said. A police patrol noticed the overloaded vehicle on the A94 highway east of Munich at about 3:15 a.m. and tried to stop it, police said. The driver didn’t react and accelerated to 180 kph (112 mph). Shortly afterward, he lost control of the vehicle when he took a turning off the highway and the van overturned, hurling several of the 23 people on board out of the vehicle.

Seven people were killed, including a 6-year-old child, police said in a statement. The other 16 were injured, some of them seriously, and were taken to hospitals. The people on board were Syrian and Turkish citizens.

The driver and suspected smuggler, a 24-year-old stateless man resident in Austria, was among the injured. Police said he was formally detained at a hospital and is under investigation on suspicion of homicide among other offenses.

The van was designed to carry nine people, and it wouldn’t have been possible for many of the people on board to use seat belts, German news agency dpa reported. Germany has seen large numbers of migrants arriving in recent months. The Austrian-registered van was traveling toward Munich at the time of the incident.

The A94 is known as a smuggling route and the site of the accident is about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the border with Austria, through which many migrants transit en route to Germany.

“The inhuman behavior of the smuggler, who was injured in the accident and wanted to evade being stopped by the federal police just to save his own skin, makes one speechless,” Bavaria’s top security official, state Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, told dpa.

Herrmann’s conservative party belongs to Germany’s main opposition bloc, which has pressed the federal government to tighten border controls. He said Friday’s incident shows “how important it is to further strengthen immediate border controls in order to stop smugglers already at the border.”

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