Belgium mourns bus crash victims

2012-03-16 14:13

Brussels - Belgium held a day of national mourning on Friday for the 22 children and six adults who died in a bus crash in a Swiss alpine tunnel as the bodies of the victims were flown home.

The remains of the 28 victims were loaded into Belgian military planes in Sion, Switzerland, a day after the parents undertook the tragic task of identifying their children and visited the site of Tuesday night's accident.

After an honour ceremony held away from the media, blue uniformed officers at about 07:30 GMT marched onto the tarmac of the airport, not far from the crash location, and a half hour later two military C130 planes took off to Belgium.

Eight of the 24 children injured in the horrific accident returned home overnight, landing at Melsbroek military airport near Brussels before boarding buses and cars with relieved loved ones accompanied by a police escort.

With flags flying at half-mast, Belgium was to hold a minute of silence at 11:00 with church bells tolling in remembrance of the young victims whose deaths shocked the nation.

Broadcasters will also go quiet and drivers of buses, metros and trains will switch off their engines for a minute as the nation copes with an outpouring of grief.

"The whole country weeps for its children," Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo told parliament on Thursday.

The victims include 22 Belgian nationals and six Dutch children.

Emotional evening vigil

The children, who went to Catholic schools in the central Belgium town of Heverlee and the community of Lommel on the border with the Netherlands, had spent a week-long ski trip in the Swiss alpine retreat of Val d'Anniviers.

Flowers, teddy bears and notes have been left by well-wishers at the gates of their two schools.

About 2 500 people held an emotional evening vigil on Thursday in Lommel as classmates and neighbours turned out to pray for the dead during a Catholic service.

"With this candle, I am thinking of you," a church worker said for each of the 24 names read out in the tight-knit town of 33 000.

The toll at the primary school of about 200 children, whose name means "the little matchstick" in Dutch, was particularly high, apparently because this group was seated at the front of the bus when it smashed into the tunnel wall.

"This is a small town where nothing ever happens and everybody knows everybody else," said 51-year-old local Peter Flament.

Back in Switzerland, investigators sought to unravel the cause of the tragedy, with news reports saying the bus driver had tried to play a DVD shortly before the crash, suggesting a "moment of distraction" may be to blame.

This claim was rejected by the man's employer and dismissed as speculation by Swiss police.

Critical condition

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.

Family members laid flowers at the crash site on Thursday after visiting the bodies at the morgue.

Three of the injured children remained in critical condition, a Swiss hospital spokesperson said on Thursday, and could not be moved.

The body of the driver was also 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.

After police said they did not believe the driver had been speeding, Swiss authorities said there would be a rethink about safety designs in the 2.5km tunnel.

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

A 100km/h speed limit was also questioned by the press.

Read more on:    belgium  |  switzerland
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Wednesday Cape Town - 07:37 AM
    Road name: N1 Inbound
    DELAYS between Sable Road and the M5 Koeberg Interchange
  • Wednesday Newlands - 07:31 AM
    Road name: Newlands Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bowwood Road
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Nokia N9

The Nokia N9 has a beautiful one-piece, unibody design where...

From R2899.85

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may find yourself fascinated by something which could draw you in to obsessively exploring this subject in depth....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.