Survivors of bus crash return to mourning Belgium | News | DW | 16.03.2012
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Survivors of bus crash return to mourning Belgium

Belgians are mourning the deaths of 28 people in a bus crash in Switzerland, as relatives identify the bodies of their loved ones. Officials continue to investigate the cause of the crash.

Survivors of a bus crash in Switzerland that killed 22 children and six adults return to Belgium on Friday as the country holds a national day of mourning over the accident.

Eight pre-teens injured in the crash landed early Friday at Melsbroek military airport near Brussels, a Swiss hospital official said, while the first bodies of the victims that have already been identified were due to be repatriated later in the day.

Relatives of the victims were brought to the morgue near the Swiss town of Sion on Thursday to identify their loved ones' bodies.

"Where possible, the bodies will be shown to the families," police spokesman Jean-Marie Bornet told the AP news agency. "In some cases this is not possible because the bodies are too badly injured."

The wreckage of a tourist bus

It is still unknown what caused the crash

The bus was carrying 52 passengers, most of them Belgian and Dutch 11- and 12-year-olds who had spent a week skiing in the Swiss Alps. Less than an hour after it left the ski resort Tuesday evening, the bus ran into the wall of the Tunnel de Geronde. Among the 28 dead were 21 Belgians and seven Dutch. Twenty-four children were injured, some critically.

Olivier Elsig, prosecutor for Valais canton, told reporters Wednesday that officials were investigating human error, technical problems with the bus and health problems with the driver as potential causes.

The Belgian government announced Friday would be a national day of mourning, with a minute of silence planned for 11:00 a.m. local time and bus and tram drivers to shut off their engines as a sign of respect.

A candlelight vigil in the quiet Belgian town of Lommel late on Thursday drew emotional crowds, many of whom were classmates and neighbors of the victims.

acb/ch (AFP, AP)