• Switzerland edition
 
Parents visit crash site after Alps coach tragedy
Valais police

Parents visit crash site after Alps coach tragedy

Published: 15 Mar 2012 08:50 GMT+01:00
Updated: 15 Mar 2012 16:40 GMT+01:00

Grieving parents laid flowers Thursday at the site of a bus crash in the Swiss Alps which killed 22 children as investigators tried to work out why the driver ploughed into a tunnel wall.

As some relatives visited the morgue to identify the bodies of the 28 victims, including six adults, others were driven from their hotel to the Sierre tunnel where investigators were trying to understand how the tragedy unfolded.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said the relatives could be seen clutching bouquets and messages as they boarded their coach. A young girl was among the party although it was not immediately clear whether she was a sister of one of the victims or a crash survivor.

"The visits are going on at the moment. They have been organised for the whole day on the request of the families," a police spokesman told AFP. The tunnel remains closed to the public and the media were kept at a distance.

Meanwhile on the bridge overlooking the tunnel's exit, residents of the region arrived to lay flowers and candles.

"I am here to lend solidarity to the victims' families, for the other children who were on the trip, for the injured and to give support to all the rescuers who worked on this disaster," said Elodie, a young girl who arrived clutching flowers.

After police said they did not believe the driver of the coach had been speeding, Swiss authorities acknowledged there would be a rethink about safety designs in the tunnel which stretches 2.5 kilometres.

Forty-six children and four teachers from two Belgian schools were returning home from a skiing holiday late on Tuesday when their coach slammed into a concrete wall in the motorway tunnel in southern Switzerland.

Twenty-one of the dead were from Belgium while the other seven fatalities were from the Netherlands.

Two C-130 Hercules transport planes belonging to the Belgian army were on standby to bring back the bodies of the dead, Defence Minister Pieter De Crem announced on his return from a visit to the crash site late on Wednesday.

As the parents arrived at the morgue, a police spokesman confirmed to AFP that some of the bodies would be repatriated to Belgium later in the day.

"The families are there to identify the bodies and to give information to help in the formal identification of those who cannot be identified" visually, the spokesman told AFP.

The body of the driver however was expected to remain as "health analyses have to be carried out" to check if he was suffering from an illness that could have caused the accident.

It is believed that the coach clipped a kerb and then slammed into the wall of a rectangular emergency stop area.

The Zurich daily Tages-Anzeiger said "the collision has occurred because of that wall", noting that the design was common throughout the country.

The 100 kilometre (60-mile) per hour speed limit was also questioned by the press.

A spokesman for the federal roads service indicated the accident could lead to changes to the right-angle shape of the emergency stop areas in tunnels.

"For the moment, the emergency stop areas have this shape as called for by regulations," said Antonello Laveglia.

"It's clear that with what has happened, it's not excluded that something will be re-discussed or changed," he said. "The accident is an occasion to think further on this topic."

The coach had only just reached the motorway after a short descent along winding roads from the mountain ski resort, close to the Italian border.

Marianne Van Malderen, a Belgian motorist who arrived at the scene shortly after the crash, described children pinned under their seats or thrown towards the front of the coach.

"We did what we could to get out those who were unhurt," but "it wasn't possible to climb into the coach because its windows were so high up", she said. 

While Switzerland pondered how the tragedy had occurred, the overwhelming emotion in Belgium was grief.

"Belgium Weeps for its Children," read the headline in the French-language newspaper la Derniere Heure, while newspaper Le Soir run a dark front page with a picture of the tunnel and a headline "State of Shock."

Newspapers in the Flemish region of Belgium, home to the two Catholic schools that the 11- and 12-year-old children attended, dedicated dozens of pages to the tragedy.

The daily De Morgen said: "There is no satisfactory answer to this question: why my child?"

Belgium's Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said he could find no words of comfort for devastated relatives.

"When we lose an adult it's dramatic, when we lose a child there are no words... because the pain is so great that there is nothing to relieve the pain," Di Rupo told a press conference in Sion late Wednesday.

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Armadillo and crocodile meat seized at border
"Bush meat" seized by customs agents. Photo: Federal Customs Administration

Armadillo and crocodile meat seized at border

A Frenchman living in Switzerland was caught entering the country from France with unusual contraband in his suitcase: 16 kilograms of meat from exotic species native to the African jungle. READ () »

UN health agency hits back at vaccine foes
WHO headquarters in Geneva. Photo: Yann Forget

UN health agency hits back at vaccine foes

The Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) hit back on Wednesday against vaccine deniers who claim that immunization is pointless, risky and that the body is better off fighting disease unaided. READ () »

More protection sought for Lavaux vineyards
Photo: Malcolm Curtis/The Local

More protection sought for Lavaux vineyards

Voters in the canton of Vaud are set to go to the polls for a third time next month to decide on the future of Lavaux, the celebrated vineyard region east of Lausanne. READ () »

Zurich Insurance study warns of cyber risks
Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Zurich Insurance study warns of cyber risks

Organizations must dramatically improve their response to cyber risks to avoid a new global shock on the scale of the financial crisis that rocked the world in 2008, a study from a Swiss-based insurer concludes. READ () »

Zurich inaugurates city's giant quartzite plaza
Image: Raumgleiter

Zurich inaugurates city's giant quartzite plaza

The city of Zurich inaugurated the largest plaza in Switzerland on Tuesday night after a 17.2-million-franc ($19.5-million) facelift. READ () »

Geneva minister revives cable car project
Urban cable cars in the French city of Grenoble. Photo: Bastille-Grenoble.com (DR)

Geneva minister revives cable car project

Cable cars — just like those used to carry skiers up mountain slopes — have re-emerged as a public transportation option in Geneva, where authorities are struggling to deal with road congestion. READ () »

Police chief casts doubt on Swiss cup final future
Stade de Suisse. Photo: Martin Abegglen

Police chief casts doubt on Swiss cup final future

The final of the Swiss football cup may no longer be held in Bern after a police chief expressed his exasperation at clashes in the streets surrounding Monday’s final at the Stade de Suisse. READ () »

Swiss drink more homegrown wine
Consumption of Swiss wines within Switzerland rose by 10 percent in 2013. Photo; Caroline Bishop

Swiss drink more homegrown wine

After several years of decline, the Swiss are finally drinking more of their own wine. Consumption of Swiss wines within Switzerland rose by ten percent in 2013 to 107 million litres, according to figures released by the Federal Office of Agriculture (OFAG) on Tuesday. READ () »

Crime proves a cash cow for Swiss authorities
In 2013, Swiss authorities received 31.5 million francs. Photo: Marcel Grieder

Crime proves a cash cow for Swiss authorities

Seized cash from the proceeds of crime in Switzerland benefited the federal and cantonal authorities to the tune of 31.5 million francs ($35.6m) in 2013. READ () »

Pharma giants strike $16bn health-care deal
GSK and Novartis will create a joint consumer healthcare business. Photo: e-Magine Art

Pharma giants strike $16bn health-care deal

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis and British firm GlaxoSmithKline have announced a major restructuring of their health-care divisions in a multi-billion-dollar deal. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Bern finds solution for Erasmus student exchange programme
National
Bern zoo faces animal cruelty charges over bear cub deaths
Society
Swiss alpine ski champion announces same-sex marriage
Features
Former industrial zone transforms into Zurich’s trendiest spot
Tech
Swiss Solar Impulse team shows off new fuel-free aircraft
International
Suspect in Liechtenstein bank CEO murder case 'likely dead'
Sponsored Article
Caveman comedy comes to Zurich in English
Society
Innovative building provides refuge for hypersensitive tenants
Tech
VIDEO: Teenage boy sends Swiss army knife into stratosphere
International
Switzerland ranks second in world for social progress: report
National
Pharrell Williams set to perform in first Montreux jazzfest concert
Sport
American wingsuit flyer dies after Bernese Oberland accident
Advertisement:
Business & Money
H&M plans hefty Swiss minimum wage for employees by 2015
International
Caterpillar accused by US senator of dodging taxes through 'Swiss plan'
International
Geneva man in Facebook page fight with Italian carmaker Ferrari
International
Schumacher’s wife pays for 'medical suite' at Swiss family mansion
International
Aborted Swiss airlines take-off injures four at London airport
International
Swiss refuse asylum request from topless protest group founder
Business & Money
British expat former banker to head Swiss finance regulator FINMA
National
Swiss honey contains harmful plastic: TV consumer affairs report
Business & Money
Luxury watchmaker Patek Philippe threatens Geneva exit over taxes
Business & Money
World's largest watch fair opens in Basel amid uncertain times
International
'Fergie' credits hikes around Verbier mountains for recent weight loss
Etoiles de Montagne
Sponsored Article
How to summer holiday up a Swiss mountain
Swissbenefits
Sponsored Article
How to avoid Switzerland’s tax haven trap
International
Switzerland's residents are the happiest in the OECD: report
Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

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

2,079
jobs available