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Baku Police Officer Fired Over Video Of Bus Ramming Athletes

  • RFE/RL

The terrifying video clip that emerged of the bus ramming into a group of teenage Austrian competitors at the European Games in Azerbaijan left Austrians reeling and overshadowed the start of the sporting extravaganza.

The terrifying video clip that emerged of the bus ramming into a group of teenage Austrian competitors at the European Games in Azerbaijan left Austrians reeling and overshadowed the start of the sporting extravaganza.

A Baku police officer has been fired for distributing surveillance video of a bus driving into a group of Austrian athletes ahead of the opening of the European Games.

The disturbing video was blocked or removed from many sites in Azerbaijan, which has invested heavily in the games, but was widely available on news and social-media sites.

Three 15-year-old members of Austria's synchronized swimming team were injured in the June 11 incident.

One, Vanessa Sahinovic, is in an induced coma after undergoing surgery in Vienna. She suffered severe spinal injuries that could leave her paralyzed.

Another, Luna Pajer, suffered a broken elbow and is recovering at home.

The third, Verena Breit, was briefly hospitalized in Baku with a thigh injury.

In a June 14 statement, Azerbaijan's Interior Ministry said investigations revealed that a police officer serving with the City Security Service in Baku's Nizami district had committed a "serious violation" in sharing the video with a friend, and was fired as a result.

The friend is believed to have uploaded the video to the Internet.

A day earlier, the Interior Ministry said that the driver of the bus, Veli Ahmadov, had been arrested and charged with violating traffic regulations resulting in serious bodily harm.

"Authorities are considering imposing legal accountability for the situation on the Bakubus Company that was responsible for hiring highly professional drivers for the event," the statement said.

Reports in the local media have suggested that alcohol could have played a role in the tragedy, although organizers have countered that there was "absolutely nothing" linking alcohol to the incident.

The injuries forced Austria to withdraw from the team competition. But sisters Anna-Maria and Eirini-Maria Alexandri won a surprise silver in the duet competition on June 15 and dedicated the medal to the injured Sahinovic and Pajer.

Breit returned to the team to participate in the figures competition on June 14.

Some 6,000 athletes are participating in the inaugural European Games, which are governed by the European Olympic Committee and correspond to other Olympic run-up events like the Asian Games, Pacific Games, and Pan-American Games.

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