18 killed in Germany bus accident; Merkel voices ‘great dismay’

Many killed after tour bus bursts into flames in Germany. VIDEO: REUTERS
Ambulance cars and fire engines near a bus where a coach burst into flames after colliding with a lorry on a motorway near Muenchberg, Germany.
Ambulance cars and fire engines near a bus where a coach burst into flames after colliding with a lorry on a motorway near Muenchberg, Germany.PHOTO: REUTERS

MUNICH/BERLIN (REUTERS, AFP) – Eighteen people were killed when a tour bus burst into flames after colliding with a lorry on a motorway in the German state of Bavaria on Monday (July 3), police said.  

Thirty people were injured in the crash, which occurred shortly after 7am local time (1pm Singapore time) near the town of Stammbach, around 90 km (56 miles) north-east of Nuremberg, police said. Some were seriously injured.

“It’s clear now that all 18 of the missing people on the bus died in the accident,” police said on Twitter.  

There were 48 people, mainly from the eastern state of Saxony, on the bus and they were aged between 41 and 81, police said.

Speaking at the scene of the crash, Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said two people were in a critical condition, he said. “The heat’s development must have been intense because there is nothing flammable left on the bus. Only steel parts are recognisable so you can understand what that meant for the people in this bus,” he said.  

Chancellor Angela Merkel described the crash as “terrible”and said: “Our thoughts are with the victims’ relatives and we wish all of the injured a quick recovery, from the bottom of our hearts.” 

Some 31 injured people were pulled out of the bus.  Images on television showed only a charred skeleton of the bus remaining.  It was unclear what kind of tour group the bus was carrying.  

According to the Bild newspaper, the coach was travelling from the eastern region of Lausitz and heading for Nuremberg.  The accident struck near the town Bayreuth, which draws thousands of classical music lovers every summer to its opera festival.  

The region close to the Czech border is also dotted with spas and castles, and the A9 is a trunk motorway leading to many popular summer holiday spots.  

An emergency team, including firefighters and rescue workers, were at the scene, while traffic on the motorway was halted in both directions.  

Those hurt were being flown by rescue helicopters to hospitals, many with life-threatening injuries.  If those missing are confirmed killed, the accident at the start of the summer holiday season would be one of the worst to hit Germany.  

Among the deadliest in recent years was a collision in June 2007, when 13 people were killed as their tour bus drove off the road and plunged several metres down a slope in eastern Germany’s Saxony-Anhalt state.  

In September 1992, 21 people died when a bus swerved out of its lane and struck a truck before ramming into the road divider in the southern Black Forest region, a key tourist destination.  

Across Europe, the last such fatal accident struck on Jan 21 in Italy, when an accident involving a Hungarian bus carrying teenagers left 16 dead.  

In France, a head-on crash in October 2015 between a truck and a bus carrying pensioners claimed 43 lives as both vehicles burst into flames.