16 killed in fiery bus crash on Italian highway

A firefighter sprays water on the burned hulk of a bus that crashed and burst into flames near Verona, northern Italy, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Police say 16 people have died when the bus carrying Hungarian school students returning home from France crashed into the side of a highway near Verona. Thirty-nine people survived. The bus was returning to Budapest with students ages 15 to 17. (Italian Firfighters/ANSA via AP)

ROME (AP) — A bus carrying Hungarian school students home from a skiing trip to France slammed into a highway barrier in northern Italy and caught fire, killing at least 16 people, police said Saturday. Thirty-nine people survived, though some were seriously injured.

No other vehicles were involved in the crash, and it wasn’t clear why the bus hit the overpass support column on the highway near Verona just before midnight, said police commander Girolamo Lacquaniti.

Sixteen badly burned bodies were pulled from the wreckage. Of the 39 survivors, 26 were injured, some seriously, he said.

“One passenger is currently in an induced coma and in life-threatening condition,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Szijjarto told reporters in Budapest.

According to Szijjarto, the bus driver lost control of the vehicle, which hit a guard rail and then the overpass support before catching fire. Investigators have found no brake marks at the scene, he said.

RAI state radio said a Slovenian truck driver who was traveling behind the bus had noticed a problem with one of the bus wheels and tried to alert the driver. But the driver didn’t react quickly enough, RAI said. The truck driver stayed at the scene trying to help until investigators arrived, RAI said.

In Budapest, a black flag flew from one of the flagpoles above the door of the Szinyei Merse Pal Gimnazium. About 60 students gathered for a vigil outside the school, lighting small candles and laying flowers in memory of the victims.

“We knew many of them but the ones we were closest to and in daily contact are mostly all right,” student Tamas Mezo said after placing candles at the door of the school.

He said the school organized a ski camp each year, involving about 50-60 students and a few teachers.

“I was very much planning on going this year but in the end it didn’t work out,” Mezo said. “There were three or four teachers on the bus and unfortunately one of them did not survive. Our hearts our hurting because we loved him and he was really nice.”

Parents of some of the children had arrived at the scene by midday Saturday to bring the survivors home, Hungaria’s consul in Milan told RAI.

Hungary’s Foreign Ministry said it had information that there were 54 passengers, including adults accompanying the students, and two drivers aboard, but it believes the actual number was higher.

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