Driver who crashed off a bridge in Iceland killing his wife, sister-in-law and young child tells police he cannot remember what happened
- Rajshree Laturia, her baby daughter Shureeprahba and sister-in-law Khushboo all died after Toyota Landcruiser fell off a bridge in Iceland
- Police say driver – thought to be Rajshree’s husband Shreeraj – can’t recall crash
- Driver is being treated as a suspect, but police say this is merely a procedure
- Shreeraj, brother Supreme and their two other children have been told they can leave the country as soon as medics give permission
The driver who plunged 25ft off an Icelandic bridge killing three members of his family has told police he cannot remember what happened in the crucial moments before the tragedy.
Officers investigating the crash which killed Rajshree Laturia, her baby daughter Shureeprahba and sister-in-law Khushboo, said they are now probing if it was caused by ‘driver negligence’.
Rajshree’s husband Shreeraj, 39, who was said to be driving, and his brother Supreme, 37, were also badly injured in the crash along with their two other children.
Shreeraj Laturia, 39 (right) has told police that he cannot remember anything about the crash which killed wife Rajshree (left), daughter Shureeprahba (centre) and sister-in-law Kushboo
Police say they spoke to Shreeraj (left and right) in hospital after his condition stabilised. He is officially a suspect in their investigation, but they say this is only a formality
The single-lane bridge where the crash happened is one of the most dangerous in Iceland with experts saying that it does not meet modern safety standards
Tragedy struck when their Toyota Land Cruiser smashed through barriers on a narrow bridge at a notorious accident blackspot in the south of the country last Thursday.
Police, who managed to interview the brothers with the help of interpreters this week after their conditions stabilised, said the driver was unable to recall the crash.
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Chief Superintendent Oddur Arnason of South Iceland Police said: ‘We spoke to the driver on Wednesday but he doesn’t remember what happened.’
He told local media that the driver was now technically being treated as a ‘suspect’ – meaning officers were investigating if a crime had been committed.
Mother Rajshree Laturia with her 11-month old daughter, Shreeprabha Laturia, who died after the Land Cruiser they were travelling in crashed off a bridge
Sisters-in-law Rajshree Laturia (left) and Khushboo Laturia (right) who died after crash at the Súla bridge barrier in Núpsvötn, Iceland on Thursday
Khushboo Laturia, pictured right during her wedding to Supreme Laturia, left, was killed in the crash in Iceland
Bridge ‘did not comply to latest standards’
The bridge at the centre of the tragedy did not comply to latest standards, a transport official has claimed.
Railings were similarly not up to modern standards, the design director of the Iceland Road Administration said.
According to Icelandic media, it has seen 14 accidents since 2000, two of them serious.
Guðmundur Valur Guðmundsson said he wants to get rid of the country’s single-lane bridges, such as the one involved in Thursday’s crash, altogether.
There are said to be 715 single-lane bridges in Iceland.
Guðmundsson said steel barriers on the bridge did not meet safety standards and the steel mesh over the wooden surface can often be slippery when wet, Reykjavik grapevine reports.
He added: ‘Single-lane bridges can invite accidents, and as such it is the goal of our transportation plans to get rid of them altogether.’
The bridge was built in 1973 and is 420 yards long, making it the second-longest in the country.
The chief added that the police have not arrested him and that he was free to return to the UK with his family when given approval by medical staff.
‘When someone has a legal status of defendant it really means no more than he might have in some way broken traffic rules and therefore caused death by negligence,’ he said.
According to local media the ‘legal status’ is a routine procedure in Iceland when there is a fatal accident.
Mr Arnason refused to comment on witness reports that the vehicle was being driven at ‘high speed’ before the crash, adding: ‘We are still investigating the case, the scene, the car and the barricades.
‘Blood samples have shown that the driver had no alcohol in his blood.’
He said they were also looking at whether or not seat belts were used after earlier revealing the baby did not appear to be strapped into a child seat.
Authorities have since reduced the speed at the Nupsvotn bridge where there have been 14 crashes since 2000 down to 50km (31mph) from 70km (44mph).
The 45-year-old single-lane bridge is a notorious accident black spot and officials have admitted that the surface and safety barrier do not meet current safety standards.
Last week, Iceland’s prime minister gave a damning assessment of the country’s roads and admitted that they were ‘behind the latest standards’.
Three British tourists including a child were killed after the SUV they were in plunged off a bridge in Iceland. All of the injured have been transported from the scene in a Coast Guard helicopter (pictured) and taken to a hospital in the capital Reykjavík
A further four people were critically injured in the accident, in Núpsvötn, south of Vatnajökull glacier at around 9.30am
A further four Britons – two of them children – were critically injured in the accident, which took place at Skeidararsandur, a vast sand plain in southern Iceland, at around 9.30am (file picture shows the bridge where it is understood the crash happened)
Skeidararsandur sand plain: A huge, barren wasteland surrounded by glaciers and volcanoes
Thursday’s crash, which killed four people, happened in freezing conditions nearly two hours before sunrise.
It took place on a bridge over Skeidararsandur, a vast sand plain of 808 square-miles.
The area was formed by deposits carried in melt water from the nearby Vatnajökull glacier.
Virtually nothing grows on Skeidararsandur, which has a rocky terrain by the glacier itself before becoming sandy and muddy towards the sea.
It was a major barrier to Iceland’s Route 1, leading to the bridge where Thursday’s incident took place being built in 1973.
The structure was badly damaged in 1996 after flood water and debris cascaded through its base in 1996 following an eruption of the nearby Grímsvötn volcano.
Police said the seven-seater Toyota Land Cruiser ‘seemed to have turned on the bridge’ and went on top of the railings before falling 25ft on to a riverbed below.
Chief Superintendent Sveinn Kristjan Runarsson said the road, near Skaftafell, was not thought to have been icy, but humidity could have made the bridge’s steel surface slippery.
Shreeraj’s surviving nine-year-old daughter Shureepa and Supreme’s son Nobel, 7, who were both injured in the crash, were said to be making a good recovery this week.
The family had been on a dream Christmas holiday to see the Northern Lights when the tragedy happened.
The couples, who all worked in banking and finance, had lived together with their children and au pair in a £1.5million apartment on the banks of the Thames.
They had been on the final day of a four-day trip on the national Route 1 when the accident happened at 9.30am – two hours before sunrise.
Rajshree, 36, was in the back seat of the rental car with Khushboo, 33, and baby Shreeprabha, officials said. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
The two brothers and the other children were airlifted to hospital in the capital Reykjavik where they are still recovering.
Icelandic authorities said the family are hoping to be transferred to a hospital in UK soon.
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