Papua New Guinea
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Deputy PM Basil dies in car crash

Deputy Prime Minister Sam Basil died in a head-on vehicle collision along the Bulolo Highway in Morobe Province.

The Post-Courier newspaper said that with Basil's death, the people of Wau-Bulolo and PNG had lost a patriotic and vibrant leader, who had also been a prime ministerial hopeful.

As investigations continue from Wednesday night into the cause of the incident, police said the driver of the vehicle that collided with Basil's told them that he had attempted to avoid fallen rocks on the Wau-Bulolo Highway when he swerved into Basil's vehicle at Sumsum village, Bulolo.

The driver has been identified as Mathew Barnabas, originally from Madang and married to a local woman from Banglum, also in Bulolo.

Killed in the accident were Basil and his close protection officer Sergeant Neil Maino.

Northern Command assistant commissioner of police Peter Guinness has confirmed that Barnabas had been charged with two counts of dangerous driving causing death and four counts of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm.

"It is alleged that when he [Barnabas] allegedly approached a section of the highway, fallen rocks had rolled over and blocked the road," Guinness said.

"He attempted to avoid the rocks and went into the other lane when he collided with the vehicle Mr Basil was driving."

It is alleged that the suspect had been travelling at high speed and with small rocks like gravel on the road, his attempt to avoid the collision failed when the vehicle swerved into Basil's vehicle, Guinness said.

Barnabas is currently being treated for a chest injury sustained from the accident.

"A passing public motor vehicle truck helped rush the victims to Bulolo health centre for medical treatment," Guinness said.

Police Commissioner David Manning also confirmed that Basil had been driving at the time of the accident.

"From preliminary reports, Basil was driving the vehicle and was in the company of his two close protection officers and a publicity officer," Manning said.

"They left Bulolo around 7pm and the accident occurred around 8pm.

"It was fortunate that a passing PMV was able to assist and transported them to Bulolo where they were received and emergency medical attention was provided.