Hungary in mourning after 16 die in bus crash
IT COULD take days to officially identify the 16 people killed when a bus carrying Hungarian students returning from a ski trip crashed in Italy, Hungary’s foreign minister said yesterday.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said 54 passengers and two Hungarian drivers were on the bus that crashed on an Italian highway near Verona, just before midnight on Friday.
Szijjarto, visibly shaken by news of the accident, said the days ahead would remain emotionally challenging.
“Time has passed since the tragedy, but the pain is even sharper,” he told reporters.
“As the shock fades, the losses become more excruciating. The long, more painful process, like the identification of bodies, is about to begin.”
Most of the passengers were pupils from a Budapest high school returning from a skiing trip in France.
Four passengers remained hospitalised with serious injuries.
Szijjarto said one of the unidentified adults in critical condition suffered third-degree burns on 60% of his body; the other had undergone surgery for a serious head injury.
Candles were still burning yesterday outside Szinyei Merse Pal High School, where hundreds of students, parents and friends took part in a vigil Saturday evening.
Szijjarto said the cause of the fatal accident has yet to be determined.
Meanwhile, Italian officials said the bus burst into flames after hitting a highway barrier and then ramming into an overpass support column.
“The bus was practically fully destroyed by the pillar of the highway overpass,” Szijjarto said. “For now, we can’t responsibly say how exactly the bus got there.”
After conflicting reports about the number of people on the bus, Szijjarto confirmed that the passengers included 43 minors and 11 adults.
The minister said several parents who travelled to Verona had provided DNA samples to help with the identification process.
Szijjarto said he already spoken to the family of one of the reported victims, a young futsal player who belonged to the same sports club as the minister.
Most survivors of the crash were expected to return to Hungary yesterday, with Hungary’s national ambulance service providing transportation for the injured.
Hungary has declared today a national day of mourning in memory of the victims.
Flags on public buildings will be flown at half-staff, and schools around the country have been asked to hold commemorations.
Meanwhile, criminal negligence charges are being weighed against the owners of the bus.
Investigators raided the offices of Pizolitbusz Ltd in the southern Hungarian city of Kiskunfelegyhaza yesterday, looking for information about the technical specifications of the bus.
The owner of the bus company told the MTI news agency yesterday that the Setra 317 GT-HD bus was in good condition before the trip.
He said he could not explain the accident. – AP and dpa