At least 17 die in Russia as bus plunges into sea

At least 17 people died in southern Russia on Friday after a bus carrying construction workers veered off a pier and plunged into the Black Sea.

The bus was carrying people from their shift constructing the jetty for the Tamanneftegaz oil company in the port of Taman when it fell into the water from a height of four meters (15 feet).

“As a result of the traffic accident, 17 people died, one is missing and 33 people have been hospitalized,” the Investigative Committee that probes serious crimes said in a statement on its website on Friday evening.

Local authorities had given an earlier death toll of 18 but the emergency situations ministry published a list of 17 confirmed dead.

A spokesman for OTEKO, a conglomerate which owns Tamanneftegaz, told Interfax that the bus was carrying people who were working on the company’s construction site but who were not employed by the company directly.

He said the bus did not belong to the company.

In a statement, OTEKO’s deputy director Irina Trifonova called the accident a “terrible tragedy”.

The Investigative Committee has launched a probe into an alleged violation of traffic rules and of providing unsafe services and was looking into the maintenance of the bus.

Investigators said they were questioning the bus driver, who survived, and had seized documents from Tamanneftegaz and a subcontractor.

They said they were also questioning the businessman who provided the bus and found he had no formal contract with the oil company.

The accident occurred on the Taman peninsula on the Black Sea near the Strait of Kerch that flows between Russia and the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed from Ukraine in 2014.