ROME (AFP) - A coach carrying Hungarian teenagers home from a school trip crashed and burst into flames on a motorway in northern Italy, killing 16 people, firefighters said on Saturday (Jan 21).
Some 39 injured were taken to hospital following the accident near Verona on Friday (Jan 20) night, which occurred when the vehicle smashed into a bridge pillar, according to emergency workers.
A huge inferno engulfed the bus, dramatic pictures released by police showed, completely destroying the interior and reducing the vehicle to a burned-out wreck.
Some were killed when they were thrown from the coach as it hit the pillar around 11pm (2200 GMT) on Friday (Jan 20), but most were found badly charred inside the vehicle.
Most of those on board were Hungarian schoolchildren aged between 14 and 18, along with teachers and parents, returning home from a trip to France.
A spokesman for Hungary’s foreign ministry said the bus was carrying two drivers and 54 passengers. The French bus driver, together with his family, could be among the victims, Italian news agency Agi said. Part of the motorway was closed while investigators combed the scene for clues.
Girolamo Lacquaniti, head of traffic police in Verona, said on television that no other vehicle was involved in the crash, pointing to mechanical failure or human error, such as the driver falling asleep, as the likely cause.
According to media reports, one of those thrown clear of the bus was an older man, possibly one of the drivers. The 10 or so most seriously injured passengers were taken for treatment to two hospitals in Verona, while those who escaped injury in the fire were taken by police to spend the night in a hotel.
Hungary’s consul in Milan has travelled to help those in hospital, the foreign ministry in Budapest said.