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
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
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
Among the injured were the three teachers and passengers
in three cars caught in the accident.
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
21 STUDENTS DEAD, 32 INJURED
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
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
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
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
''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, News.bg - 14/04/03; AP, AFP
Council of Europe sadness at the death of 21
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
Council of Europe Spokesperson
and Press Division