Greek bus accident claims 21 pupils

Twenty-one Greek teenagers died on Sunday and 24 were injured when a truckload of timber crushed a bus carrying high school students in what was being described as Greece's worst road tragedy in decades.

A final toll released on Monday by regional authorities in northern Greece said a total of 32 people were injured, six seriously. Earlier reports had spoken of 24 dead, mostly pupils, and 29 injured.

Nine girls were among the dead adolescents.

The bus was carrying 49 students aged 15 to 16 and three high school teachers from their home village of Makrihori on an excursion through northern Greece.

"The youth of the village with its 3 000 population has been decimated," said junior Education Minister Eleni Kourkoula.

Crash occurred on a dangerous road

The crash occurred near Tembi, 450 kilometres north of Athens on a motorway linking the capital with the north of the country, police said.

The deaths occurred in a twisting stretch of road through a gorge considered particularly dangerous by drivers.

The school group was on its way home when a truck coming in the opposite direction suddenly shed its load of timber boards, crushing the roof of the bus, police said.

But according to a version of events reported by public television, the truck's trailer swung out, forcing the bus onto rock lining the route while the timber load collapsed on it.

Injured rushed to hospitals

Emergency services struggled to free the injured, who were rushed to hospitals at two nearby towns, Larissa and Katerini. The truck driver was slightly injured.

George Kazratsiotis, chief regional government officer of the region of Thessaly, said all local hospitals had been placed on a state of alert.

Counselling was being provided to grieving families at hospitals.

Among the injured were the three teachers and passengers in three cars caught in the accident.

Condolences offered

Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis offered his condolences to the victims' families.

Education Minister Petros Eythymiou and Public Order Minister Michalis Chryssohoidis were scheduled to visit the scene of the tragedy.

Media reports said identification of the victims was particularly harrowing because many had been badly crushed.

A Greek Orthodox mass was said in Makrihori village church on Sunday, while residents from around the area offered to donate blood.

In Greece's last major road accident, on February 23, 16 people died when an inter-city bus fell into a river 30 kilometres from Salonika in northern Greece.
Mon, 14 Apr 2003




It is a tragedy. No matter the causes which will be investigated the tragedy remains. I would like to expresses my grief and compassion, as does the whole Greek people, for the unfair loss of young children's life, as well as my full support to all the students' families, stated Prime Minister Costas Simitis, in reference to last night's accident in Tembi.

The tragic accident took place last night in Tembi, outside Larissa, causing the death of 21 students and the injury of another 32 individuals, (24 students, 3 teachers, and 3 drivers of oncoming traffic) six of whom are in serious condition, upon returning to Makrochori from a school trip. The bus the students were riding in was, struck by a truck coming in the opposite direction, which was carrying large planks of wood that had come loose. The planks were hanging over the side of the truck and ripped through the right side of the bus, tearing through the windows and the seats on the right hand side of the bus, striking the students.

President of New Democracy Costas Karamanlis' announcement pointed out: I would like to express my grief on this unspeakable tragedy, and offer my condolences to the students' families. At this painful hour, what is important is helping the injured and supporting the families mourning their loved ones or in anguish over their fate.

Its deepest grief and sorrow was expressed by the Coalition of the Left, sending its condolences to the students and other victims' families. The minimum obligation of the state is an immediate investigation and attribution of responsibility on the specific accident, and a radical restructuring of the accident prevention policy for the country's road networks, especially on the national highways.

The President of DIKKI issued a statement expressing his sorrow and grief for the loss of the students and wished a speedy recovery to the injured. The time is not right for appreciations and pointing fingers.

At this time, I feel the obligation to assure our people that I and all the holy clergy are praying that God gives strength to the families and teachers that felt the bitterness of this tragedy, as well as to the surviving children on the Cross they have to bear, and that He takes in His arms the souls of the victims, whose untimely and unfair death heightens my unspeakable sorrow, stressed Archbishop Christodoulos, in an announcement.

Meanwhile, the truck driver involved in the accident is being held and questioned by the Larissa police, and, according to information, has, allegedly, admitted passing into the opposite lain. The driver underwent an alcohol and blood test, while the authorities took the truck's speed indicators, in the framework of the investigations to discover the specifics of the accident.

At the same time, 15 priests have been mobilized from the surrounding villages, in an effort for all the funerals to be carried out today, while dozens of psychologists, social workers and private practitioners hasted to the Makrochori town hall, to offer their support to the families and schoolmates of the victims, along with hundreds of citizens offering to donate blood for the injured students.

Church bells having been sounding their mourning toll since early this morning in the six villages of Imathia, where the first hearses begun arriving shortly after 10:30, for the funerals of the 15-year-old students. Funerals will be held in Makrochori and the neighboring communities of Nikomdea, Kavassila, Diavata, Kouloura, and Stavros Imathias.

Macedonian Press Agency
Larissa, 14 April 2003



Students Killed, Injured in Bus Crash in Northern Greece

Twenty-four teenagers were killed and another 31 people were injured late Sunday (13 April) in Greece when a truck loaded with plywood hit a school bus. The crash occurred at a narrow winding road section in the Tembi Valley, some 350 km north of Athens. It is described as the country's worst traffic accident in 30 years.

The driver of the lorry, who is said to have sustained minor injuries, has been arrested as the investigation continues.

''I lost control of the truck and I got onto the wrong lane and crashed with the bus,'' the driver was quoted as telling Greek television. ''After the crash the plywood sheets just slammed into the vehicle.''

"Whatever emerges as the cause of this -- which will be investigated -- it remains a tragic event," said Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who was expected to visit the scene of the accident.

Survivors and police sources said the truck was going down the hill at high speed when its plywood-loaded trailer suddenly veered into the opposite lane as the bus was approaching. It then hit the left side of the bus, slamming it onto the rocks bordering the road.

The bus was taking 48 students, aged 14 to 16, back to their village of Makrohori -- 70 km north of the site of the accident -- following a three-day trip to Athens. They were less than an hour from home.

"I saw the timber flying at us and turned to my pupils, shouting at them to get their heads down. But it was too late," said Panayota Zioga, one of three teachers accompanying the students. All of the teachers and the school bus driver survived the crash.

The collision sent the timber off the truck. ''It was like a razor chopping off half of the bus,'' Reuters quoted a rescue worker as saying.

The sheets reportedly knocked off the supports of the bus's roof and it collapsed on to the pupils' heads. Hitting the plywood strewn over the road, three cars driving behind the bus burst into flames, but none of the occupants was injured, according to reports.

"I was dragged out by a friend but there were dead bodies everywhere," one of the teenagers told Greek television. ''There was blood everywhere.'' Television reports showed rescue workers pulling mangled bodies from what remained of the bus, with its seats strewn on the road. The vehicle was almost flattened by the impact. Shocked survivors, their faces bloodied, were shown weeping by the side of the road.

A dozen ambulances carried the victims to hospitals in Larissa and Katerini. Most died at the scene from head injuries, according to doctors. The death toll may climb, as some of the injuries are severe.

Reuters, The Independent, Times Online, ANA, MPA, - 14/04/03; AP, AFP



Council of Europe sadness at the death of 21 teenagers
in northern Greece

Strasbourg, 14.04.2003 - The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Walter Schwimmer, has expressed his consternation at the news of the collision between a heavy goods vehicle and a school bus in Tembi, northern Greece, yesterday evening which claimed the lives of 21 teenagers and injured 30 others.

"This accident - the most lethal for decades in Greece in terms of lives lost - is a veritable tragedy for the small village of Makrihori, home to all of the teenagers involved, and for the Greek nation as a whole. On the eve of my forthcoming visit to Athens on 16 April, I would like to express my condolences to the families of the victims and to the Greek authorities," said Mr Schwimmer.

Council of Europe Spokesperson and Press Division


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