“We have never experienced a tragedy like this”
The impact made by the Belgian bus when it hit the concrete wall in a tunnel in the Swiss Alps on Tuesday night was so severe that the front of the bus was turned into scrap metal within seconds. 28 of the passengers, 6 adults and 22 children, died on the spot. With the rear seats hurled to the front by the sheer force, with the children still seated, it was a scene of complete horror. “We are used to accidents here,” said police commander Christian Varone. “The canton Wallis regularly encounters catastrophes. But we have never seen a tragedy of this magnitude.” “It was terrible,” added Jean-Pierre Deslarzes, coordinator of the 200-strong team of fire service, nurses, doctors and ambulance personnel. According to Olivier Elsig, first public prosecutor in Valais, an initial analysis of the video footage made in the tunnel shows that the driver was not speeding and that no other drivers were involved in the accident. He believes there could be three possible scenarios: either the driver fell ill, there was a technical fault or a human error. An autopsy on the driver should shed more light. The Valais court of justice rules out fatigue, according to Elsig, “the bus had only covered about fifteen or twenty kilometres”. A team of forensic doctors from Lausanne was still busy identifying the bodies last night. While a crowd of journalists, photographers and broadcasting transmission vehicles gathered at the funeral centre outside the Sion city centre, parents apparently flew to the top of the city’s mortuary with a helicopter to enter unnoticed. 22 of the 24 injured children were identified yesterday. Two were so badly hurt that they had to be identified by their clothing and luggage. Most of the 14 injured were transferred to the hospital in Sion while the three most critically injured were flown to the academic hospitals in Bern, Geneva and Lausanne. When they embarked on a government aircraft to Geneva in Melsbroek yesterday, the parents had no knowledge of the condition of their children,” admitted Prime Minister Di Rupo PS. “The parents followed on a separate aeroplane to Switzerland, with psychologists on board to support them during the flight.” The parents were only informed of the accident yesterday morning. Away from the cameras Di Rupo, Vice prime minister Steven Vanackere CD&V and his Defence colleague Pieter De Crem CD&V, and Flemish minister-president Kris Peeters CD&V laid a wreath at the scene of the accident last night.