Sierre coach crash

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Sierre coach crash
Mur mortel du tunnel de Sierre.JPG
Crash location
Date 13 March 2012 (2012-03-13)
Time 21:15 CET
Location

Sierre Tunnel, A9 Autobahn

Valais, Switzerland
Coordinates 46°17′02″N 7°31′55″E / 46.284°N 7.532°E / 46.284; 7.532Coordinates: 46°17′02″N 7°31′55″E / 46.284°N 7.532°E / 46.284; 7.532
Filmed by Closed-circuit television[1]
Deaths 28
Non-fatal injuries 24
Property damage 1 coach
Sierre bus crash is located in Switzerland
Sierre bus crash
Sierre bus crash
Location in Switzerland

The Sierre coach crash occurred on 13 March 2012 near Sierre, Switzerland, when a coach carrying school teachers and pupils crashed into a wall in the Sierre Tunnel. Of the 52 people on board, 28 were killed in the crash, including both drivers, all four teachers, and 22 of the 46 children. The other 24 pupils, all aged between 10 and 12, were injured, including three who were hospitalised with severe brain and chest injuries.

The coach was one of three operated by the Aarschot-based Top Tours company and was transporting mostly Belgian school teachers and students from a skiing holiday in Val d'Anniviers back to their two schools in Belgium. It crashed at around 9.15 pm CET while travelling on the A9 motorway near Sierre, in the southern canton of Valais.

It was Switzerland's second-worst road accident in history and the country's worst in a motorway tunnel.[2][3][4] The investigation into the crash initially closed inconclusively in May 2013, having ruled out a number of factors that had been the subject of media speculation but failing to identify a cause.[5] A further public investigation, closing at the end of June 2014, attributed the crash to a non-criminal error on the part of the coach driver.[6] Media speculation has continued.[7]

Circumstances[edit]

The passengers, four teachers and 46 pupils from Saint-Lambertus school in Heverlee, Flemish Brabant, and Stekske primary school in Lommel, Limburg, were returning home having spent the previous few days at a skiing resort in Val d'Anniviers in the Swiss Alps.[8]

The crash occurred shortly after 9 pm local time (CET) on 13 March 2012, when the coach, while in the Sierre Tunnel, veered and hit a curb, then collided with a concrete wall head-on, at the end of an emergency turnout area.[9] The front portion of the vehicle was severely damaged, initially preventing some survivors from escaping; the side and rear windows of the coach had to be smashed by emergency workers in order to gain access to the trapped passengers.[9]

Police said that because of the strong impact the coach was badly damaged and many of the passengers were trapped in the wreckage, meaning they had to be freed by the dozens of rescuers mobilised to the scene. The road was closed in both directions to facilitate the rescue which took several hours and involved firefighters, police, doctors and three psychologists.[10] Rescuers described the scene as "apocalyptic" and some became distressed as they fought to remove dead and injured children from the wreckage. Eight air ambulances and a dozen road ambulances were used to transport victims to several hospitals.[11] The most seriously injured children were flown to hospitals in Bern and Lausanne.

The coach was one of three hired by the group; the other two reached Belgium safely.[12] Among the passengers aboard the crashed bus were 39 Belgians, ten Dutch children, one German child, one British child, and one Polish child.[13]

A memorial inaugurated three years after the drama of Sierre.
A monument in memory of the 28 victims, including 22 children, died in the March 2012 coach accident in Valais.
Auguste Piccard Space in Sierre with a circle of trees above the tunnel.

Passengers[edit]

Most of the passengers aboard the coach were Belgian nationals. Six of the 10 Dutch passengers were killed, as well as one schoolboy with dual Belgian-British nationality.[14][15][16]

Country Passengers Fatalities
 Belgium 39 21
 Netherlands 10 6
 Belgium/ United Kingdom 1 1
 Germany 1 0
 Poland 1 0
Total 52 28

Cause[edit]

The exact cause of the crash has not yet been determined.[17] Tests revealed the driver was not intoxicated with alcohol, did not suffer a heart attack or any other sudden illness, and prosecutors stated he was not exceeding the 100 km/h (62 mph) speed limit at the time of the crash.[18] Experts have narrowed the cause of the crash to either driver fatigue or some sort of undetected medical issue. [19] Police said that the coach, operated by Aarschot-based Top Tours, a company with an "excellent reputation", was a modern and well-maintained vehicle, and that the children had all been wearing the fitted seatbelts at the time of impact.[20]

Both drivers and all four teachers upon the coach died in the accident. However, 24 of the 46 children aboard the vehicle survived and some were able to provide witness statements.

The design of the turnout area, which ended abruptly in a concrete wall, contributed to the severity of the crash.

This accident was reminiscent of the 1988 Måbødalen bus accident in Norway, where a Swedish bus whose brakes had failed collided with the concrete arch at the exit of a long and very steep tunnel.

Reactions[edit]

Belgium declared a day of national mourning on 16 March 2012 in memory of the 28 people who died in the crash, including 21 Belgian nationals, with flags being flown at half-mast and a minute's silence being observed. Peter Vanvelthoven, the mayor of Lommel, whose school lost 15 of its 22 pupils and both of the teachers aboard the coach, announced a memorial service the next week in the town, with attendees including the Belgian royal family and Prince Willem-Alexander and Màxima of the Netherlands.[21]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Swiss bus crash kills 28; most victims are children". CNN. 14 March 2012. 
  2. ^ "Swiss tour bus slams into tunnel, killing 28". brisbanetimes. 15 March 2012. 
  3. ^ "Swiss official: bus carrying kids was not speeding". AP. 14 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Denis Balibouse and Philip Blenkinsop (14 March 2012). "Swiss bus crash kills dozens". Reuters. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012. 
  5. ^ "No final answers in Swiss bus crash investigation". Flanders Today. 29 May 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  6. ^ Alan Hope (1 July 2014). "Sierre bus crash investigation closed without charges". Flanders Today. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  7. ^ Marine Guiet (13 March 2017). "Dramatique accident de Sierre: cinq ans après, toujours autant de questions" (in French). RTBF. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  8. ^ Traynor, Ian (14 March 2012). "Swiss Coach Crash Kills at Least 22 Schoolchildren". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  9. ^ a b "28 die in school trip coach crash in Switzerland". NDTV. 14 March 2012. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012. Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  10. ^ "Shock Swiss bus crash kills 28, most children (PHOTOS, VIDEO)". RT.com. 14 March 2012. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "UPDATE 8-Swiss probe deadly bus crash as families arrive". Reuters. 14 March 2012. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012. Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  12. ^ "Busongeval Zwitserland: hotel werd uitgebaat door CM-vakantiedienst Intersoc" (in Dutch). Knack. 14 March 2012. 
  13. ^ "De mededeling van premier Di Rupo" (in Dutch). Deredactie.be. 14 March 2012. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012. 
  14. ^ (in Dutch)"23 Belgen en 5 Nederlanders omgekomen" www.standaard.be – 17 maart 2012
  15. ^ (in Dutch) Busongeluk: Nieuwe informatie Zwitserse autoriteiten
  16. ^ (in Dutch)"Brits jongetje bij slachtoffers busdrama" www.nieuwsblad.be – 17 maart 2012
  17. ^ http://www.flanderstoday.eu/current-affairs/sierre-bus-crash-investigation-closed-without-charges
  18. ^ "Alcohol ruled out as cause of coach crash". BBC News. 16 March 2012. 
  19. ^ "Report narrows causes of fatal Sierre bus crash". 21 May 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2017. 
  20. ^ "Swiss tunnel crash: What happened". BBC News. 15 March 2012. 
  21. ^ "Belgian day of national mourning for coach crash dead". BBC News. 16 March 2012.