Distraught parents fly to scene of bus crash

Thu, Mar 15, 2012, 00:00

SION/HEVERLEE – Distraught parents flew to Switzerland yesterday after a bus carrying a Belgian school group home from a ski trip crashed into the wall of a Swiss tunnel, killing 22 children and six others.

Twenty-four passengers remained in hospital, including three children in Lausanne with critical injuries, but the other survivors were out of danger.

Swiss president Evelyn Widmer-Schlumpf and Belgian prime minister Elio di Rupo, speaking at a news conference in the town of Sion near the crash site, paid tribute to the victims and the 200 rescue workers who pulled injured people from the wreckage after the bus rammed into a wall inside a tunnel on Tuesday night.

Twenty-one of the dead were Belgian nationals and seven were Dutch, according to Swiss officials.

The Dutch foreign ministry said three Dutch children in the bus were injured.

About 200 police, firefighters, doctors and medics worked through the night at the scene, while 12 ambulances and eight helicopters took the injured to hospital.

Olivier Elsig, prosecutor for the Valais canton, said that video surveillance images from the tunnel, where the speed limit is 100km/h (62mph), showed no other vehicle was involved in the accident and the road was dry and in “good condition”.

“The bus did not appear to be travelling too fast,” Mr Elsig told the news conference. “I immediately ordered an autopsy of the deceased driver, which is under way at this very moment.

“The bus had travelled only 15-20km from the Swiss ski resort of Val d’Anniviers before entering the tunnel.

“The children were all wearing seatbelts but the shock of the crash was violent,” he said.

There were three possible causes for the crash: a technical problem; the driver may have become ill; or human error, according to Mr Elsig. – (Reuters)