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28 lost in Belgian Bus Crash Returning from Swiss Skiing trip


Photo (KANTONSPOLIZEI WALLIS/POLICE OF VALAIS)
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What: Chartered Toptours bus (Aarschot)
Where: A9 highway near Sierre, western Switzerland,
When: March 14, 2012, 9 p.m.
Who: 22 Belgian 12-year-olds 6th grade students from two classes in Lommel Colony (Lommel) and St Lambertus Catholic School(Heverlee) and six adults, 24 injured, 52 aboard
Why: A trio of buses were returning from Val d’Anniviers ski camp to the Dutch-speaking Belgian provinces of Brabant, Flanders and Limbourg when one of them veered and hit a curb, then rammed into the tunnel’s concrete wall. The tunnel’s speed limit is 100 km (62 mph). It has been five months since the bus passed inspection. The injured were taken to hospitals in Sierre, Sion, Martigny, Viège, Bern, and Lausanne. Some passengers died on impact; some had to be cut out of the wreckage.

The accident occurred between Val d’Anniviers ski camp resort and Sierre, Switzerland, in a tunnel where shattered glass and debris is now scattered across the pavement, the front of the bus rended open by the collision. Just before the wreckage, there’s a big black scratch on left side of the tunnel where the bus scraped or bounced against the wall.

Students from Heverlee sat in the back of the bus; the Lommel students were in front and sustained most of the casualties. Three of the surviving children are severely injured; six may be able to leave the hospital today. All six adults aboard, including the drivers, died at the scene.

Emergency response included 15 doctors, three psychologists, eight helicopters, twelve ambulances, dozens of firefighters and police. Most of the responders have been overcome by the tragedy.

The victims were mostly Belgians living in Flanders. The children were from two towns, Lommel and Heverlee. One child lived in the Netherlands. Eight sets of parents gathered at the school in Belgium to be flown to Switzerland on by military plane. Two buses with family members arrived at the airport of Melsbroek where a plane waited to bring them to Switzerland. Some of the families flew in on their own, ahead of the military flight. The bus monitor from St. Lambert’s School in Heverlee was about 70 years old is one of the fatalities, on her last tour.

The trip coodinator, a Belgian social group called Intersoc, organizes trips for members of Christian organizations. Belgian Ambassador Jan Luykx was present at the press conference.

Family members can contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at 02.501.40.00

A month ago in France, twenty students and a British teacher were killed coming home from an Italian ski trip.