Bus plunges in France, killing 26
The Associated Press
Copyright 2007 Newsday, Inc.
Newsday (New York)
Related Video: At Least 26 Dead in French Bus Crash
GRENOBLE, France — A bus carrying Polish Catholic pilgrims from a holy site in the French Alps plunged off a steep mountain road, crashed into a river bank and burst into flames yesterday, killing 26 people, authorities said.
AP Photo/Thierry Boinet
A medic tends to an injured passenger near the wreckage of a bus.
AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani
View of the wreckage of a bus that was transporting Polish pilgrims from a holy site in the French Alps.
Fourteen others were seriously injured in the wreck on a dangerous stretch of road where past bus accidents have killed scores of people. Firefighters said the bus did not have the special permit required to use the 12-percent gradient road.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, traveled to Grenoble late yesterday to meet the injured. Sarkozy said he was "shattered by the scale of the tragedy" and pledged to follow "very closely" the investigation into the causes of the accident.
Poland's Foreign Ministry said the bus carried 50 people, including 47 pilgrims, two drivers and a guide; French media reported it had between 50 and 60 people aboard. Most were in their 50s to 70s, but among them were three children - a 12-year-old and two 13-year-olds - and several people in their 20s and 30s, according to trip organizers.
Local residents said the bus missed a 90-degree bend near the village of Vizille as it returned from the shrine of Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette. It plowed through a barrier, plunging 65 feet onto the banks of the La Romanche River and catching fire on impact.
"When the bus was burning, there were injured people inside," said Philippe Baret, owner of the field where the bus landed, who said he helped pull people and bodies from the bus before it went up in flames. "I saw at least six of them who were stuck inside the bus and burned to death before my very eyes."