Poland PM feels "quite well" after crash; safety a question

AP News
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Posted: Feb 11, 2017 12:09 PM
Poland PM feels "quite well" after crash; safety a question

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo is feeling "quite well" following her limousine's crash into a tree that appears to have been caused by a young driver in another car, the interior minister said Saturday, but questions arose about the quality of the government agency protecting Polish officials.

Friday night's accident in the southern town of Oswiecim was a second crash of a government limousine so far this year.

Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak told a news conference he had spoken with Szydlo, 53, who remains hospitalized and was undergoing tests at a government hospital in Warsaw. Szydlo told him she was feeling "quite well" and thanked all those who helped her after the crash, he said.

Blaszczak then addressed security concerns. He insisted Szydlo's three-car convoy observed all traffic rules and had their warning lights and sirens on as they were passing a small Fiat. Her driver was an officer with 15 years of experience.

He admitted, however, that the Government Protection Office was undergoing restructuring under the Law and Justice government that took power in 2015 and many new officers are being admitted and trained. He said that had no negative effects on the quality of the agency.

But opposition lawmakers demanded a detailed report into changes taking place at the office and said they will provide legal assistance to the 21-year-old driver of the Fiat that was involved in the accident.

National police head Jaroslaw Szymczyk said the driver had admitted to involuntarily contributing to the crash and could face up to three years in prison if convicted.

The accident occurred shortly before 7 p.m. Friday as Szydlo arrived for the weekend in Oswiecim, her hometown.

Her car, a new Audi A8, was in the middle of a three-car convoy going about 50 kilometers (30 miles) per hour on the town's main road when a small Fiat they were overtaking suddenly turned left and hit the limousine, causing it to hit a tree, according to Janusz Hnatko, the spokesman for prosecutors in Krakow.

Szydlo's driver and her bodyguard were also hurt and hospitalized.

Dr. Andrzej Jakubowski, who examined Szydlo after the crash, said she suffered some slight injuries and was in some pain, but the prognosis was good. TVP INFO, a state TV program, said she suffered bruises to her chest from her seat belt.

It was the latest in a string of road incidents involving top state officials.

Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz escaped uninjured from an eight-car collision two weeks ago. In November, several vehicles in a Polish government convoy, driven by Israelis, collided during a state visit to Israel, injuring two Polish officials.