Sixteen dead after school tour bus crashes on Italian motorway
Dozens injured after bus taking Hungarian students home from France bursts into flames
A handout photo made available by Polizia Di Stato (Italian State Police) shows a burned Hungarian bus after an accident at a motorway exit near Verona, Italy, on Saturday. Photograph: EPA
A burning bus, which was carrying Hungarian students, is seen on a side of a motorway, near Verona, northern Italy on Saturday.
Sixteen Hungarian school children on their way home to Budapest following a holiday were killed in Italy after their bus struck a motorway bridge pillar and burst into flames.
The cause of the accident, which happened just outside Verona in northern Italy, is as yet unclear. No other vehicle was involved and explanations being looked at include mechanical failure or that the driver suffered a sudden illness or fell asleep at the wheel.
There were 55 students, aged between 14 and 18, on the bus at the time of the accident. The first rescue workers on the scene were confronted with a horrific sight. The bus was reduced to a smouldering metal frame containing bodies burned beyond recognition and several victims were catapulted out of the bus by the violent impact.
The A4 Verona-Venezia motorway, often called the “Serenissima”, is one of Italy’s busiest autostrada as it is the main road traffic artery to Eastern Europe. It is believed that the school party were heading home following a skiing holiday in the French Alps, travelling through north-Eastern Italy to Slovenia en route to Hungary.
Ten of the bus passengers were taken to hospital on Friday night with varying injuries, while the remaining passengers were taken to hotels.
It is thought that the driver may have been accompanied by his family. Among the badly burned bodies in the wreckage, firemen found the body of a small child who may have been the driver’s child. Police also believe that they have found the driver’s body.
This latest tragedy comes in a week when an avalanche in Abruzzo, central Italy on Wednesday destroyed a winter holiday resort. With frantic rescue work still ongoing at the remote site of the Rigopiano Hotel near Farindola, five people have been confirmed dead and 15 people remain unaccounted for.
A further worry for Italy’s civil protection and mountain rescue services is linked to a rise in temperature on Saturday.
Following the sub-zero blizzard conditions and abundant snowfall which led to the Rigopiano tragedy in midweek, experts believe that a relative thaw now could lead to further avalanches. Accordingly, all rescue services are currently on full avalanche alert.