Minibus and Car Collide on Russian Road; 15 Killed

A crowded minibus crashed into a car on a highway in central Russia (search) on Saturday, touching off a fire and killing all 15 people in the two vehicles, police said.

The Gazel (search) minibus collided with a Volkswagen on a road linking the Volga River cities of Ulyanovsk and Kazan, national traffic police official Andrei Silkov said.

The 13 people aboard the minibus and the two people in the Volkswagen were killed, Silkov said, citing a preliminary investigation. He said that some of the people in the minibus died in the fire.

A spate of deadly accidents last year involving Gazels raised concerns about the safety of the Russian-made minibuses.

Used to supplement sometime infrequent public transport, the minibuses are sometimes driven recklessly and are often packed with too many people, making them more dangerous in crashes and fires. Last years' crashes prompted a safety check of the vehicles in the Moscow area.

Bad roads and careless or drunk drivers have contributed to high accident tolls in Russia, where an estimated 35,000 people were killed in road accidents last year, according to the Transport Ministry.