Footage has surfaced online showing the moment that a bus ran over three 15-year-old Austrian synchronized swimmers due to compete at the European Games in Azerbaijan. The accident, which happened at about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, left one of the teenage athletes with severe spinal injuries.
According to the Telegraph, the footage was first obtained by the opposition Meydan TV.
It is feared that Vanessa Sahinovic, 15, who sustained the worst injuries in the accident could be left permanently paralyzed. The young athlete reportedly suffered a broken spine and fractures.
The accident happened as the athletes walked back to the Baku athletes’ village, just before the commencement of the opening ceremonies at the games.
Two other teammates were injured in the accident. One of the two, Luna Pajer, suffered a broken elbow and the third, Verena Breit, suffered minor thigh injuries.
The video shows the moment that the bus hit the teenagers outside the Baku athletes’ village as they prepared to cross a road. The bus is shown suddenly swerving away from course. It turns around, mounts the curb and runs into the youngsters at a considerable speed.
The accident happened so suddenly that the girls did not have the time to get out the way of the out-of-control bus. It ran over Sahinovic, dragging her along underneath.
The video shows people running over to help after the bus stopped.
Doctors placed Sahinovic in a medically induced coma and had her flown back to Austria where she reportedly underwent a ten-hour surgery. Her teammate Pajer, was also flown back to Austria, but the third victim Breit, was treated for the injuries in Azerbaijan and was released from the hospital on Thursday.
According to a statement by the Austrian Olympic Committee (AOC), doctors in Vienna said she was not “in an acute life-threatening situation,” but there are fears that she could be left paralyzed.
“[She] was flown to Vienna where she was operated on all night. Apart from her hip region and thigh, her spine has also been affected… Sahinovic is at the moment in an artificial deep sleep and will undergo more operations in the coming days.”
“Vanessa underwent a very long operation having arrived back in Vienna on Thursday evening and we believe the operation has helped to stabilize her condition,” Wolfgang Eichler, press officer for the Austrian team, said.
“Our team doctor here in Baku is in constant contact with the team back in Vienna and we expect to be in a position to provide more information about the extent of the injuries to the respective athletes in due course.”
The driver of the bus, identified as Veli Ahmadov, has been arrested. There were allegations in the local media that alcohol might have been a factor in the accident and that staff at the village had been drinking, but authorities at the village reportedly denied it.
Game organizers said they take allegations of drunkenness by staff at the village seriously and would investigate, but it is uncertain how the accident was related to the allegations of drunkenness.
Azerbaijani police said that Bakubus, the company that employed the driver, could also face charges for violating rules on employing properly-qualified drivers.
More than 6,000 athletes are competing at the European Games, the Telegraph reports. The games, which opened on Friday, will end on June 28.