Bulgaria: The Migrants in the "Coffin Truck" Died from Lack of Oxygen

Society » INCIDENTS | February 18, 2023, Saturday // 17:53
Bulgaria: Bulgaria: The Migrants in the "Coffin Truck" Died from Lack of Oxygen @BNT

The entire activity of the organized crime group responsible for the "coffin truck" tragedy has been established. So far, there are six accused of participating in organized gangs, trafficking and assisting illegal crossing of the border. The organizer of the group was detained for 72 hours. Two of the defendants - the driver and his assistant - have been charged with causing death by negligence of more than one person. The sixth of the accused is wanted and a European Arrest Warrant has been issued for him because he left the country yesterday after the news was spread by the media.

This was made clear at a joint briefing by Borislav Sarafov, deputy chief prosecutor for the investigation and director of the National Investigation Service (NIS), Hristo Krastev, spokesman for the Sofia City Prosecutor's Office, Atanas Ilkov, director of the General Directorate "National Police" (GDNP), as well as Asen Medjidiev, acting minister of health. The prosecutor general Ivan Geshev also took part in the briefing.

According to the results of the examinations, it is clear that the migrants died as a result of suffocation due to being squeezed and pushed into the hiding place of the truck. They died slowly and painfully - between 30 and 60 minutes.

At the beginning of the briefing, Geshev stated that yesterday Bulgaria again entered the black statistics of Europe and the world's bad news. He wished his colleagues success in the investigation.

"What we saw - these 18 dead young people and many other victims, are the result of the disintegration of the institutions, of the war between the institutions, of the destruction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs by a former interior minister, of certain so-called political decisions that some call judicial reform. They closed the most serious tool to fight organized crime - the Specialized Prosecutor's Office. The results are visible. On a 9-month basis, there is a 50% drop in organized crime cases. What we see - the organized groups for human trafficking, for telephone frauds are the result of all this," Geshev said and asked if anyone would apologize to the Bulgarian citizens.

He stated that the prosecutor's office during these years is only trying to protect Bulgarian citizens from crime and will continue to work in the interest of Bulgarian citizens and society.

Director of NIS Borislav Sarafov explained that the briefing was in a broad format between various institutions to show that they are united and have a firm determination to work together to crack down on trafficking activities. The time of the briefing was chosen for 4:00 p.m., because the signal about the incident was received at exactly 4:00 p.m. yesterday.

In 24 hours, a huge amount of work was done at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, he explained. Dozens of witness interviews have been conducted, over 20 address searches, over 30 expert examinations have been appointed, and the results of some of them are already ready.

"In 24 hours we managed to establish all the criminal activity of this group," said Sarafov.

Work has been done not only on the cause of death of the migrants, but on uncovering and documenting the criminal activity of the group that carries out the trafficking of migrants.

"It is about an organized crime group that carries out channeling by receiving migrants from the border with Turkey, which is very easily crossed with the help of a simple ladder, and with the help of trucks with various caches, they take the migrants from the Turkish border to the area around the Serbian border. The exact locations of where to pick up the migrants and where to take them is received from the Telegram app by the head of the group," Sarafov said.

The final destination of the migrants is mainly Great Britain, Germany and France. For their passage, they pay between 6-7 thousand euros, which are paid by the "hawala" method. Bulgarian traffickers take part of this sum. Drivers receive only 100 euros per transported migrant. The leader charged between 500-1000 euros per person. The secret places were prepared by the traffickers themselves, they are also equipped with foil, which does not allow x-rays to detect the heat of the bodies. The group consists of 6 people.

What exactly happened yesterday?

Around 7.30 am, the two drivers, who are already known to the police, went with the truck to the area near the Turkish border, indicated by the location in Telegram, from there they picked up 52 male migrants, apparently aged 13-14 years up to 33 years. None of the migrants' real identities are known because they have no documents on them. The migrants were loaded into the trucks, but shortly after the "Trajan's Gate" pass, a loud thump was heard from the body of the truck. In the area around the village of Lokorsko, the knocking on the inside of the truck increased tremendously, the drivers felt that there was a problem, they pulled over, got out to see what was happening and saw that there were dizzy but also dead migrants inside. They abandoned the truck and the migrants and started running to their hometowns in Burgas.

So far, 18 forensic medical examinations have been prepared - the conclusion is that the migrants died as a result of asphyxia - suffocation from the exhaustion of oxygen in a closed space, as well as from their position in the truck, which were collapsed and rammed as if in a can, and the movements of the chest and abdomen were severely restricted, resulting in oxygen deficiency. The victims died slowly, painfully and for a long time - each of them died between 30 and 60 minutes, explained Sarafov.

He stated that they will be uncompromising and will not hesitate to crack on this traffic organization and work on all other groups.

"It is probably necessary to think about strengthening the border guards," Sarafov also said.

He also specified that too many migrants were loaded into the truck, as previously up to 35 migrants were expected. It also became clear that the group has been operating since last year and the truck makes at least two shipments per month, Sarafov said.

Atanas Ilkov, director of the National Criminal Investigation Department, said that so far 7 people have been arrested for the crime, and they have indisputable evidence for 4 of them. He expressed hope for future legislative changes that would lead to more serious penalties.

Acting Minister of Health Asen Medjidiev said that the injured 34 people were provided with medical assistance. 27 of them are accommodated in 5 hospitals.

At the moment, 19 people remain in medical facilities. 8 people were released today and most of them have been accommodated in the state agency for refugees at "Voenna Rampa", where they have been provided with a psychologist, a doctor on duty, clothes and food.

There are currently three people in "Pirogov" hospital who were intubated yesterday. Two of them were extubated. They are in contact and there is no danger to their lives. They were even visited by the ambassador of Afghanistan. There are also two people in intensive care and another 5 people in the ward with bad indicators in the blood count.

One person remains in intensive care at St. Anne's Hospital and has been contacted. There are four in Tokuda Hospital who are stable. Another 4 people have been admitted to the Ministry of Internal Affairs hospital, but are also in a stable condition.

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