Eight dead, 54 injured in SW Francemotorway pile-up

30th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

BELIN-BELIET, France, Aug 29 (AFP) - Six women and a boy were among eight people killed Sunday in a five-vehicle pile-up involving a Spanish coach carrying mainly Portuguese passengers, in one of France's worst motorway accidents in the last 10 years.

BELIN-BELIET, France, Aug 29 (AFP) - Six women and a boy were among eight people killed Sunday in a five-vehicle pile-up involving a Spanish coach carrying mainly Portuguese passengers, in one of France's worst motorway accidents in the last 10 years.  

A further 54 people were injured, with at least 12 victims in critical condition. The chief government officer of the south western region near Bordeaux warned the death toll could rise because of the seriousness of some cases.  

Moroccan, Portuguese, Spanish and three Italian nationals were among the injured, officials said.  

The identity and nationalities of all the dead were not immediately known. By Sunday afternoon only one fatality, a Moroccan van driver, had been identified.   But seven of the victims were travelling on a Spanish coach carrying around 60 passengers, most of them Portuguese.  

Witnesses said they had seen an object on the motorway shortly before the crash.   In Madrid, the owner of the bus said his vehicle had been in proper order.  

"All our drivers respect the obligatory resting-times , the coach was almost new and had passed all its checks," Jose Manuel Pardo of the Galician company Galisur said on radio.  

Initially, officials said that four men, three women and a child had been killed in the pile-up at 4:00 am near Belin-Beliet, 40 kilometres (25 miles) southwest of Bordeaux.  

But law officers in charge of an enquiry later said six women, a 14-year-old boy and the Moroccan man had been killed.  

Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, who rushed to a Bordeaux hospital where the injured had been taken, said authorities were having "very serious problems identifying the people killed and critically injured".  

Portuguese radio TSF reported that the bus had left the northern Portuguese city of Braga and had been heading to Paris.  

Besides the coach and van, three cars were involved, including one registered in Italy. The crash occurred in light rain, police said.  

"We were all in the coach, asleep, when suddenly everybody cried out. I thought there was something on the road, the bus spun round and then went over on its side," one of the survivors, 24-year-old Paulo, told AFP.  

Several witnesses told AFP that the van driven by the Moroccan man had hit the central guard rail and lost part of the load it was carrying on its roof.  

The white coach, its windscreen shattered, was resting on its side at the scene of the accident. Pieces of twisted metal were strewn across the highway.   

Some 200 firemen, 60 police officers, dozens of ambulances and fire engines, and three helicopters were deployed to attend to the victims, some of whom had to be cut out of their smashed-up vehicles.  

The A63 motorway was closed on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year in France - just before the start of the school year - following the deadly accident.  

Alcohol tests were to be carried out on all the drivers involved, including a post-mortem test on the van driver, according to Colonel Regis Barou of the French gendarmerie.  

The two bus drivers, both Portuguese nationals injured in the crash, were to be brought in for questioning as soon as they had sufficiently recovered, the regional official said.   Transport Minister Gilles de Robien said an inquiry had been launched to determine the cause of the accident.  

France's worst coach accident was in 1982, when a bus collided with another vehicle and caught fire on a motorway near Beaune, in Burgundy. Fifty-three people perished, 44 of them children.

 

© AFP

Subject: French news

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