A school skiing trip in Switzerland came to a nightmare end when one of the buses carrying children from two different Belgian schools crashed in a tunnel on the journey home.
The bus was carrying a total of 52 people at the time of the accident. 22 children, mostly aged 12 were killed as were 6 adults. A further 24 children were taken to hospitals in the local area, the Valois Canton high in the Swiss alps. Some reports say that some of those injured are in a very serious condition.
According to a report in The Independent, three buses had been travelling in a convoy , returning from a school skiing trip. For reasons as yet unknown, one of the buses veered off the road in the tunnel crashing into the wall. A police spokesman said:
"The bus hit the barrier stones on the right side of the road. It then hit the tunnel wall front-on in an emergency stop space. Because of the strong impact the bus was badly damaged and several passengers were trapped in the wreckage."
The children were from two small Flemish villages, Heverlee and Lommel. The Guardian reports that frantic parents gathered at the school in Heverlee desperate for news about their children. Belgian's Prime Minister, Elio di Rupo, flew to the scene of the accident, telling the media:
"A very sad day for all of Belgium. Words are not enough for this terrible accident."
The BBC says the accident happened shortly after 9pm local time on Tuesday March 13. The other two buses continued onwards unaware of the horror that had taken place behind them.
The Transport Minister for Belgium said the coach company is well known and that all the regulations regarding driving and rest periods had been followed correctly. The bus was new and had been equipped with seat belts. Both the drivers of the bus were killed.
Swiss emergency services were quickly at the scene with over 200 personnel and eight helicopters involved in the rescue operation. Many of the injured had to be cut from the bus.
Now the distraught parents will have to wait to hear the news as to whether their children are alive, injured or dead, every parent's worst nightmare. Two aircraft will be taking those who wish to travel to Switzerland and a helpline has been set up.