Forty-three people, most of them French pensioners on a day trip and one toddler, died in a horrific road accident in which their bus burst into flames after smashing into a lorry.
The pensioners set off before dawn for a day of walking, dining and good company in the Bearn region in the foothills of the Pyrenees, a leisurely two hours drive away.
But just a few minutes after leaving their pretty village of Petit-Palais in the heart of Bordeaux’s wine-growing region, most of them were dead, burnt alive inside their bus after it smashed into a lorry and burst into flames.
“I’ve lost too many people,” said Jean Solans in the village where most of the 41 pensioners who died in the crash were from. He said he had lost a brother, neighbours and friends in the crash that happened at 7.30am local time yesterday.
The driver of the truck also died, along with his three-year-old son who was sitting in the cab next to him when the bus hit his vehicle on a bend in the road that runs through vineyards where grapes for the world-renowned Saint-Emilion wine are grown. Police said they did not yet know for certain what had caused France’s deadliest crash in 30 years, but that it appeared that the truck had been on the wrong side of the road at the dangerous bend south of the village of Puisseguin, around five miles from Petit-Palais.
Police said the bodies were badly burnt and the process of identifying victims would be long and complicated.
The bus driver survived the head-on collision. He threw open the vehicle’s doors and helped a handful of passengers escape.
Eight survived, with some of them suffering from burns and brain injury.
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