By Sarah Fowler, BBC News
2 December 2018
It was an incident they were told never to talk about and for several years they heeded that warning. A group of 21 Iranian poets, writers and journalists believed they were heading to a literary conference in neighbouring Armenia in August 1996. But what should have been a routine trip turned into one of the most terrifying experiences of their lives.
They had hired a bus to drive them high up into the mountains through the mist-covered Heyran Pass, a steep and winding road that links two northern provinces in Iran. The 18-hour journey was beginning to take its toll and one-by-one the passengers drifted off to sleep. In the early hours of the morning, their slumber was abruptly interrupted with the sharp jolt of the bus accelerating hard.
The woken passengers watched on as the bus hurtled towards the edge of a cliff. Luckily for them, a well-placed boulder stood in the vehicle’s path and prevented it from plunging to the depths below.
Among the passengers was Faraj Sarkohi, a 49-year-old journalist and then editor of the progressive cultural magazine Adineh. “After the bus stopped, we got out one by one in a state of confusion. The bus driver approached us and apologised for falling asleep,” he recalls. Once they had recovered from the initial shock, the passengers and driver agreed to continue on the road.
But the perilous journey was not to end there. A few minutes later, the driver again turned the bus in the direction of the cliff, diving out of the vehicle as it approached the 1000-ft drop.
The bus was only stopped from careering over the edge again by an alert passenger who leapt into the driver’s seat and pulled up the handbrake, bringing it skidding to a halt as it headed towards the precipice. The lives of all 21 on board were saved for a second time.
Read the full report on the BBC website
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