Report faults driver for fatal Swiss bus crash

21st May 2013, Comments 0 comments

An expert report on Tuesday pinned the blame on a Belgian bus driver for a crash in a Swiss alpine tunnel in March last year which left 22 children and six adults dead.

The report, made public by the prosecutor's office in the Swiss canton of Valais, concluded that the 34-year-old driver, who died in the crash, had lost control of the bus either due to a lapse in attention or some kind of malaise, or both.

The driver had not long taken the wheel from a second chauffeur in the bus, carrying Belgian school children home from a ski holiday, before slamming into a tunnel wall at 100 kilometres (65 miles) an hour on March 13 last year.

Technical probes have previously shown there was nothing wrong with the bus, which was horrendously mangled by the impact of the crash, and the driver has long been the main focus of investigations.

Tuesday's report was based on two in-depth medical probes carried out to determine the impact of the driver's heart problems, detected in the post-mortem last year, as well as of the anti-depressants he was taking.

The first probe, conducted by a professor of cardiology, showed that the driver was suffering from a diseased left coronary artery, which "can provoke a massive heart attack, angina and/or cardiac arrhythmia."

This, the unnamed cardiology expert pointed out, "could have caused a malaise that led to a loss of control of the vehicle that is impossible to detect after the fact."

The expert meanwhile stressed that there was no concrete evidence that the driver's heart condition was to blame for the accident.

The second probe, carried out by a specialist in driving capacity, focused on the paroxetine anti-depressant the driver was taking.

The drug has a number of known, albite rare, side-effects in the early stages of treatment, including insomnia, hallucinations, panic attacks and increased suicidal tendencies.

The report however pointed out that the driver had been on the medication for nearly two years and that he was only taking half the standard dose, stressing it was "unlikely" the drug would have impaired his ability to drive at the time of the accident.

Although Tuesday's report was not conclusive on why the driver had lost control of the bus, it was expected to lay the case to rest.

Families of the victims, who had been informed of the findings, however still have the option of requesting further inquiries, the prosecutor's office said.


© 2013 AFP

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