• Switzerland's news in English
 

Families fly to scene of fatal Swiss bus crash

AFP · 14 Mar 2012, 17:15

Published: 14 Mar 2012 08:40 GMT+01:00
Updated: 14 Mar 2012 17:15 GMT+01:00

Distraught families of victims of a horrific school bus crash in a Swiss Alpine tunnel that killed 28 people flew to the scene on Wednesday, still unaware if their children were alive or dead.

The coach bringing 46 children and four teachers back to Belgium from a skiing holiday hit a concrete wall late Tuesday in the motorway tunnel near the town of Sierre.

A total of 22 children from two Catholic primary schools were killed, along with the teachers and both coach drivers, and 24 reported injured.

The injured, three of whom were said to be in a coma, were taken by ambulance and helicopter to four hospitals as fire crews worked for hours to cut them free from the twisted wreckage of the coach.

Belgium announced a day of national mourning, while the Swiss parliament observed a minute's silence for the victims.

Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo and Swiss President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf were due to visit the site of the crash later on Wednesday.

"This is a tragic day for all of Belgium," said Di Rupo.

As well as Belgians, the children included 10 of Dutch nationality and one Pole, authorities said.

Police in the southern Valais canton told reporters early on Wednesday that the tragedy was "unprecedented" and that even seasoned rescuers had been traumatised.

Surgeon Jean-Pierre Dellars said in one of the hospitals: "All the rescuers were shocked by what they have experienced."

The injuries were so bad that the death toll could well rise, he added.  

The coach, in a convoy of three hired by Catholic education authorities in Belgium's Flanders region, carried pupils from primary schools in Lommel, near the Dutch border, and Heverlee, in the suburbs of Leuven in the centre.

"The magnitude of the accident is difficult to digest ... for the moment I am concentrating on the practical aspects," said Belgium's ambassador in Switzerland Jan Luykx who visited the accident site early on Wednesday.

"The emotional side will come when we meet with the families," he added.

Belgian authorities said were doing everything they could to ensure that the families of the victims were kept informed and treated with dignity, the prime minister's office said.

But at Heverlee parish priest Dirk de Guedt said the parents did not know which children had been killed and which had survived.

Of the 22 children from the 't Stekske school in Lommel, five had phoned their parents but there was no news of 17 others, deputy mayor Kris Verduyckt was quoted as saying by Belga news agency.

"I'm at a loss for words," Transport Minister Melchior Wathelet told RTBF radio. "Terribly hurt, terribly moved.

"We are all thinking like parents, with this terrible thought for the those parents who will not see their children coming back today," he said.

"Yesterday evening, they were looking forward to seeing them and they won't see them again."

It was unclear what caused the bus to swerve to the right, mounting the kerb before hitting a concrete wall at the end of an emergency lay-by. The accident happened between the east and west exits for the city of Sion.

Belgian transport company Toptours operated the 2002-registered coach and had an "excellent reputation," said Wathelet.

"It has always respected the rules," regarding safety, he added.

The bus was towed for examination to a cantonal police depot close to the site of the accident early on Wednesday.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Saint-Gobain clears hurdle in Sika takeover
Photo: AFP

Saint-Gobain clears hurdle in Sika takeover

57 minutes ago

French building materials giant Saint-Gobain cleared a key hurdle in its bid for Swiss adhesives maker Sika, under a court ruling on Tuesday.

Rail operator launches online shopping service
SBB explains its new SpeedyShop service (in German) on its website. Photo: Speedyshop.ch/Screenshot

Rail operator launches online shopping service

1 hour ago

Shopping for supermarket items by smartphone and picking them up at the train station half an hour later is now possible under a pilot project introduced on Tuesday in the Zurich region.

US Open tennis
Federer advances after effortless win over Mayer
Federer: off to a fast start. Photo: Getty Images/AFP

Federer advances after effortless win over Mayer

11 hours ago

Swiss tennis ace Roger Federer advanced to the second round of the US Open on Tuesday by defeating Argentina's Leonardo Mayer 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in sweltering conditions at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Zurich's Dolder Grand named best Swiss hotel
The Dolder Grand hotel. Photo: Switzerland Tourism

Zurich's Dolder Grand named best Swiss hotel

13 hours ago

It was good enough for Justin Bieber when he visited Switzerland a couple of years ago and now Gault&Millau is giving Zurich’s Dolder Grand Hotel the thumbs up.

Get wise to Swiss duties on stuff bought abroad
Photo: Federal Customs Administration

Get wise to Swiss duties on stuff bought abroad

15 hours ago

Swiss import duties designed to protect the domestic economy can be a killjoy for ‘shopping tourists’ in Switzerland seeking bargains across the border or online. But Emily Rose Mawson discovers there are ways to avoid paying through the nose for those purchases from abroad.

Mediterranean migrant count continues to rise

17 hours ago

More than 350,000 migrants have risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean this year, and some 2,600 have died while making the perilous journey to Europe, the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration said on Tuesday.

Anger over autistic kid kicked off Swiss plane
Photo: AFP

Anger over autistic kid kicked off Swiss plane

22 hours ago

Swiss International Air Lines is facing embarrassment after it kicked an Israeli family off a flight to Geneva from Zurich because their eight-year-old autistic boy was crying uncontrollably.

US Open tennis
Federer starts bid for sixth US Open title
Photo: AFP

Federer starts bid for sixth US Open title

1 day ago

Switzerland's Roger Federer gets his bid to become the oldest US Open winner in 45 years underway on Tuesday but the five-time champion will be overshadowed by Andy Murray's clash with enfant terrible Nick Kyrgios.

Former ski star Cuche denies drunk driving rap
Photo: Christian Jansky

Former ski star Cuche denies drunk driving rap

1 day ago

Didier Cuche, former World Cup alpine ski champion, appeared in court in the canton of Neuchâtel on Monday to contest a 6,900-franc fine and other criminal sanctions imposed by justice officials for seven alleged road traffic act infractions, including drunken driving.

Tram kills Canadian tourist in Zurich crossing
The streetcar involved was a tram 2000 similar to the one pictured here. Photo: VBZ

Tram kills Canadian tourist in Zurich crossing

1 day ago

Zurich city police are looking for witnesses after a 56-year-old Canadian woman visiting Switzerland was struck and killed by a streetcar on Monday.

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

National
One million people throng Zurich techno street party
National
Where are Switzerland's priciest babysitters?
Features
Farmers’ wives offer visitors genuine slice of life in rural Switzerland
National
Switzerland set to test world's longest train tunnel under the Alps
National
US right-wing think tank: Swiss are freest people in Europe
National
Bottoms up: new signs alert visitors to Zurich's nudist bathing zones
Sport
Swiss man smashes cliff jumping record with 59-metre dive
National
Climate change seen as plus for Switzerland's wine growers
Photo: Federal Housing Office
National
Buying home in Switzerland is 'cheaper than renting'
National
Central bank to launch new high-tech banknotes — six years late
National
Swiss speed climber summits all 4,000m peaks in the Alps
National
Report: Switzerland is world's safest country (barring extreme sports)
National
Where are the top ten spots to visit in Switzerland for tourists?
National
Two Japanese climbers found dead after scaling Matterhorn's summit
National
High Geneva accommodation costs force unpaid UN intern to live in tent
National
Zurich farmer ordered to remove cow bells after noise complaints
National
Gays file criminal complaint against Swiss bishop over speech
National
The Expat Guide: Moving to Switzerland
National
Briton who ends life in Switzerland: 'Ideal shelf life for people is 70'
National
Aargau farmer under fire after pigs gassed to death by own excrement
National
Cows trample German woman to death in Graubünden Alps
National
Hot times: Swiss city to host first naked performance festival
Features
Expat American author's time in Zurich inspires racy bestseller
National
10 amazing places to be on Swiss National Day — or any other day
National
Swiss army pilfers water from French lake for cows in Switzerland
National
Swiss Army airlifts water to thirsty cows facing drought conditions
International
Canary Islands: diver killed in collision with Swiss windsurfer
National
VIDEO: Seagull steals camera for amazing bird's eye selfie
Switzerland celebrates first ascent of Matterhorn
Politics
Immigrant recruits may not be loyal: Swiss defence minister
Solar Impulse 2 round-the-world flight halted for repairs
Society
Teenager gets high on vegetarian meal at Zurich club
National
Greece seeks tax revenues from assets 'hidden' in Swiss banks
Culture
Paris police arrest Swiss artist for naked Eiffel Tower selfies
National
Scientists uncover largest Swiss dinosaur skeleton ever found
National
National weather office extends danger alerts as heatwave takes hold
National
Most severe heatwave in Switzerland since 2003 on the way
Travel
Bogglingly expensive Geneva club sandwiches remain 'priciest in world'
Politics
Anti-immigration nationalist party remains most popular: poll
National
Greek finance minister slams Swiss over lack of tax evasion info
Business & Money
Insects proposed for sale in Swiss supermarkets next year
National
'Oh God — I'm coming': noisy lovers' complaint goes public
National
Canton of Ticino threatens closing Italy border to asylum seekers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

4,397
jobs available