Parents seek to reopen Swiss bus crash enquiry

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

The parents of Belgian children who died in a horrific coach crash in Switzerland in 2012 have asked private investigators to review the case as they are unhappy with the initial Swiss enquiry, Belgian media have reported.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

The Belgian press reported on Saturday that the parents of 14 of the 22 children – out of a total of 28 people who died in the crash in a motorway tunnel between Sierre and Sion on March 13, 2012 - had contacted Dutch forensic experts to go back over the causes of the accident.

The Belgian news agency Belga said the parents refuse to accept the conclusions of a Swiss investigation that the bus may have crashed into a tunnel wall due to driver error caused by his illness or his inattention. They want to check whether it might have been a desperate act by the coach driver, the agency said.

Canton Valais public prosecutor Olivier Elsig who carried out the Swiss investigation considers the enquiry almost closed. A final report by Swiss investigators in May 2013 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.

The families want the Dutch investigative bureau IFS to carry out DNA tests to evaluate the influence of the medicines.

“Based on the type of medicines that the driver was taking for two years, I’m almost sure that it was an act of despair,” Selma Eikelenboom from IFS told Belga. “It has been proven scientifically that these medicines push users to commit suicide, to become aggressive and violent.”

They also contacted Elsig in February to request a check on the driver's second mobile phone left at his home.

Regret move

In a statement to the Belgian news agency, the driver’s wife criticized their action.

She said some people ‘can clearly not reconcile the fact that accidents happen’ and she regretted that her dead husband was being targeted.

She also lamented this indirect attack against the Swiss investigators, who she said had ‘always done their best to work quickly and accurately’ and ‘whose expertise now seems to be brought into question’.

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

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.

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.

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