herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

Wiped out in bus horror

THESE are some of the 22 children - aged 11 and 12 - who died in the tunnel bus crash tragedy.

Our picture shows pupils of 6th class at the Sint Lambertus school in Heverlee, Belgium.

Several of the students perished in the accident alongside one of their teachers.

A tribute wall of messages and tributes was growing at the school today.

As distraught parents flew to Switzerland, rescuers described the scene of horror after the bus carrying 52 people from a ski trip ploughed into the wall, killing 28 in total.

"Emotions ran high, and with so many children, it was an absolute horror," said paramedic Alain Rittiner. "Access to the vehicle, which is quite high, was difficult and it was hard to remove the victims." The bus had gone only 15-20 km from the ski resort of Val d'Anniviers before entering the tunnel.

"The children were all wearing seat belts but the shock of the crash was violent," a rescuer said.

Gathering at primary schools in Belgium before boarding a military aircraft for Switzerland, some of the parents did not know whether their children were dead or alive.

Rescue

"There's no news, simply none," said one red-eyed father.

A police photograph showed the bus had smashed into the side of a tunnel, with the front ripped open, broken glass and debris strewn on the road and rescue workers climbing in through side windows.

It was later towed away from the scene. About 200 police, firefighters, doctors and medics worked through the night at the scene, while 12 ambulances and eight helicopters took the injured to hospitals.

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

Investigators said that video surveillance images from the tunnel, where the speed limit is 100kph, 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," a spokesman said. "I immediately ordered an autopsy of the deceased driver."

One theory being explored is that the bus driver may have had a heart attack at the wheel.

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 the injured from the wreckage after the bus rammed into a wall inside a tunnel on Tuesday night.

"When a drama like this happens, when we lose a child or have a child suffering in hospital, there are no words. It is important to console the families," Mr Di Rupo said.

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.

Belgium plans to hold a national day of mourning. A memorial mass was set for today in the Swiss town of Sierre.

hnews@herald.ie

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