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Vietnamese authorities arrest air force officer involved in fatal car accident

Vietnamese authorities on Thursday said they arrested an air force major involved in a fatal accident in late June in southeastern Vietnam’s Ninh Thuan province after determining he had been using his cell phone when his car hit and killed a high school student on a scooter.

Maj. Hoang Van Minh of the 937th regiment, 370th division, of Vietnam People’s Air Force, formally called the Air Defense-Air Force, was driving a seven-seat military vehicle when he ran into 18-year-old Ho Hoang Anh on June 28.

Minh is being temporarily detained for three months while investigators look into the crash, according to the Criminal Investigation Agency of Division 2 of the Air Defense-Air Force, authorities said.

The provincial public security and information and communications departments held a press briefing on Aug. 2 to announce the action against Minh.

Sr. Col. Ha Cong Son, deputy chief of the Phan Rang-Thap Cham city police, said that Minh has confessed to using his mobile phone while driving.

Son also said the initial investigation indicated that before the accident Minh had changed lanes in an unsafe manner, causing Anh’s death as she drove her scooter along the right lane of the street and within the speed limit. 

 He added that he believed there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Minh.

Security camera footage shows that on the day of the crash, Minh turned the military vehicle right into the driveway of a bank office, colliding with Anh’s scooter. The impact knocked Anh off the scooter and into an electricity pole, smashing her head. She died en route to the hospital.  

The video also shows Minh still holding his mobile phone and talking while getting out of his car following the collision.  

Medical authorities at Ninh Thuan Provincial General Hospital initially reported that Anh’s blood-alcohol concentration level was 0.79 milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood. That led to fears among her family and the public that the release of the test result was a part of an effort to exonerate Minh by placing the blame on Anh. 

Ahn’s father filed a complaint asking for a review of claims that his daughter’s drinking caused the crash, and spoke with newspapers to make the point that alcohol was not to blame, according to an RFA report earlier this month. 

After receiving his petition, the People’s Committee of Ninh Thuan province asked provincial police to verify the young woman’s blood-alcohol test result.

On July 29, the hospital’s director apologized to the family for issuing an incorrect alcohol test result, blaming a technician for not following test regulations. 

A week later, hospital administrators visited the student’s family to apologize in person and promised to invalidate the test result. On Tuesday, the hospital’s disciplinary committee said it would discipline those responsible. 

Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnamese. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.