Driver error likely cause of fatal bus crash

The bus crashed into an end wall of an emergency tunnel lane Keystone

A fatal bus crash that claimed the lives of 28 people, including 22 schoolchildren, last year was almost certainly caused by illness to the driver or by his inattention, according to a report by Swiss investigators.

This content was published on May 21, 2013 - 18:59
swissinfo.ch and agencies

The bus, carrying 52 passengers from two Belgian schools, slammed into a tunnel wall on the A9 motorway between Sierre and Sion on March 13 last year. Canton Valais public prosecutor Olivier Elsig has confirmed initial suspicions of driver error.

The investigation heard that the 34-year-old driver had an unusual heart condition that may have brought on sudden illness, but this theory is impossible to prove conclusively.

The driver was also taking anti-depressants, but these are thought unlikely to have contributed to the accident. Elsiger also ruled out the possibility of the crash being linked to suicidal impulses.

An autopsy revealed that the driver had not been drinking and crash scene investigators found the bus had been travelling within the speed limit.

Elsiger now plans to close the inquiry, but it is believed that the file will be passed on to interested parties who could seek further investigations into the incident.

Wave of emotion

The victims of the crash were pupils and teachers from two schools in Belgium who had been on a skiing holiday in the Val d’Anniviers. Among the dead were six Dutch citizens who attended one of the schools while 24 more children were injured.

The accident - one of the worst in Switzerland - led to a wave of emotion in both Switzerland and Belgium. The schoolchildren were all aged around 12.

Belgium observed a national day of mourning and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter attended a funeral of some of the victims in Belgium.

Previous investigations had found the bus to be in good mechanical condition and that there were no shortcomings with the road surface or tunnel infrastructure.

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