Two South Korean sisters died Sunday and six of their family members were critically injured after a bus carrying 15 U.S. servicemembers, most from Osan, and four family members crashed into their van on a highway north of Kunsan Air Base, according to U.S. and South Korean officials.

The bus was traveling to Osan Air Base from Kunsan when it hit the van, which was parked on the side of Highway 15 near the Hongsung rest stop, about an hour’s drive north of Kunsan, South Korean police said during a phone interview Monday.

The bus driver, Shin Dong-se, a 40-year-old South Korean employee at Kunsan Air Base, told police his bus struck the van after swerving to avoid another car in front of him that braked suddenly, a Hongsung police spokesman said.

The American passengers were mostly U.S. airmen from Osan and their relatives, said Kunsan spokeswoman Capt. Tiffany Payette. One passenger suffered minor injuries and was treated at Osan, Payette said. No Kunsan airmen were on the bus.

The South Korean family in the van was returning to Incheon after visiting relatives in Gochang, a city in the southwest part of the country, police said.

The sisters, Jeong Gi-ae and Jeong Mi-he, both in their 40s, died at the scene of the crash, officials at Hongsung Medical Center said. Their brother and the van’s driver, Jeong Jong-gu, 44, and his son, Jeong Dong-chul, 18, were sent to the medical center for treatment. They and the other four passengers, whose names were unavailable, were taken Sunday evening to hospitals in Incheon for treatment.

Hongsung Medical Center officials declined to comment on the survivors’ injuries because of privacy regulations.

A Hongsung police spokesman said family members were able to speak, but didn’t remember why the van was parked on the side of the road.

Police questioned the bus driver on Sunday and plan to question him again, a police spokesman said on Monday.

“There is no way for the driver to avoid punishment,” the spokesman said.

Payette said the U.S. Air Force is working with Korean National Police, and will conduct a safety board inspection to determine the cause of the accident.

U.S. Forces Korea officials expressed condolences for the South Korean family.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the two Korean citizens who were killed and the others who were injured in this tragic accident,” Col. C.Q. Brown, commander of Kunsan’s 8th Fighter Wing, said in a press release. “We will continue to work closely with Korean civilian authorities as an investigation is conducted.”

U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell also released a statement Monday.

“On behalf of all USFK servicemembers, I express our deepest sympathies and my personal condolences for the families of those affected by this tragic event,” he said.

USFK officials will follow South Korean custom by visiting the injured family members and by giving “solatia” payments, typically presented as an expression of sympathy after injury or death, Payette said.

She said the amount of those payments would not be released due to privacy concerns but that 8th Fighter Wing and 7th Air Force officials are to give the payments during a visit to the injured family members “in the very near future.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now