Bavaria: Seven dead in an accident involving a suspected smuggler's car

It's a horror scenario: the dark van lies completely destroyed on its roof, slowed down by a guardrail.

Bavaria: Seven dead in an accident involving a suspected smuggler's car

It's a horror scenario: the dark van lies completely destroyed on its roof, slowed down by a guardrail. Debris lies next to the car - and dead people. Seven people lost their lives in a devastating accident on Autobahn 94 in southeastern Bavaria when a suspected smuggler tried to escape from the police. Among the fatalities is a child only six years old.

The 24-year-old driver, a stateless man living in Austria, was injured and arrested in hospital. The Traunstein public prosecutor's office is investigating seven cases on suspicion of murder with intent to cover up and smuggling resulting in death. This had previously been reported by the “Bild-Zeitung”.

Ten-year-old child among the injured

According to police, 22 people were sitting with the young man in the car, which is designed for a maximum of nine. Very few of them were probably wearing seatbelts; all 16 survivors were injured, some of them so seriously that they had to be flown to the hospital in a rescue helicopter. A ten-year-old child is also among the injured.

The inmates came from Syria and Turkey. It is still unclear where they crossed the border into Germany, but a federal police patrol noticed the car on the highway and wanted to stop it. But the driver accelerated - according to the police to 180 kilometers per hour. At the Ampfing/Waldkraiburg motorway exit, the car left the road and overturned several times and the occupants were thrown out.

The smuggling gangs' business was broken up

Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser was shocked by the accident. “We have significantly increased federal police forces everywhere on the smuggling routes at our borders,” said the SPD politician. "We must dismantle the cruel business of smuggling gangs who make maximum profit from people's need and smuggle them across borders in such life-threatening ways."

The A94 is considered a typical smuggling route. The scene of the accident is around 50 kilometers from the border with Austria. According to information from the Federal Police and the Bavarian Border Police, the number of registered unauthorized entries has been increasing for months. The Bavarian border police discovered 154 cases of smuggling between January and August - over 50 percent more than in the same period last year.

Just a few days ago, a suspected smuggler fled from the federal police near Burghausen with four people in the car and caused an accident. There were two seriously injured.

Since March, the police have increasingly been detecting so-called large-scale smuggling with groups of more than ten people, as the Bavarian Interior Ministry recently announced. “The migrants are mainly smuggled into Bavaria in trucks and vans.” In August alone, the federal police and police registered 66 large-scale smuggling cases, and in one week in September there were 28 cases.

Call for stronger border controls

The case is likely to further fuel the debate about illegal immigration and German migration policy that has been simmering for weeks. Bavaria's Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) emphasized his call for stronger border controls. “In any case, this incident also shows how important it is to further strengthen immediate border controls in order to stop smugglers at the border,” he told the German Press Agency in Munich.

“The terrible traffic accident with seven deaths, including a small child, and a total of 16 people, some seriously injured, is a terrible tragedy,” said Herrmann. "My thoughts are with the many victims of the traffic accident and with those left behind. The inhumane behavior of the smuggler who was injured in the accident and who wanted to evade being stopped by the federal police just to save his own skin is shocking."

The Bavarian police are “investigating the accident at high speed and are also supporting the Federal Police in the investigation into the underlying smuggling and the people behind it,” emphasized Herrmann.

Left criticizes “hunts against refugees”

The Bavarian Left, on the other hand, sees “hunts against refugees”. “I am shocked that the right-wing mood in society is now spreading to police officers on duty,” said state spokeswoman Adelheid Rupp. "Chasing suspicious vehicles with such overzealousness that innocent people die is absolutely unworthy of our police force."

She called on Interior Minister Herrmann to "speak to the Federal Ministry of the Interior and clarify that this is not the case in Bavaria," she told the dpa. Human lives should not be risked.

A criticism that Herrmann immediately and sharply rejected: “There was no hunt for refugees,” he said. "According to the current state of the investigation, the federal police vehicle in pursuit was at a sufficient distance from the smuggler's vehicle. There have been far too many cases in which the smuggled people have been harmed or even died due to the precarious conditions in the vehicles. The aim was to arrest an unscrupulous smuggler and to free the penned-in smugglers."