An ITALIAN bus which crashed through a flyover barrier and plunged 100 feet in southern Italy on Sunday, killing 38 passengers, was speeding out of control after losing parts of its transmission, early reports have claimed.
The crash, described as Italy’s worst road accident in living memory, occurred when the bus, loaded with weekend tourists, smashed through the concrete barrier on a flyover near the city of Avellino before tumbling into a ravine.
Yesterday an Italian highway worker claimed he saw the bus heading for the flyover too fast, with its front door open or broken, possibly due to the driver slamming the bus into roadside barriers in an attempt to slow it down. Italian news agency ANSA also reported that a piece of the bus’s engine was found nearly a mile away on the road.
Rescue workers pulled bodies from the wrecked bus throughout Sunday night, lining them up under white sheets on a remote rural lane below the flyover near Monteforte Irpino in Campania. They also found 12 survivors, all injured, two of whom later died.
“A women in her 30s spoke to the police one moment then suddenly collapsed and died, perhaps of a haemorrhage,” said one fireman. A family of four did survive the crash. “They were not sitting together – it is just by chance they survived,” said the head of the firefighting team, Alessio Barbarulo.
The passengers had clubbed together for a weekend trip from their homes in Pozzuoli, near Naples, visiting the hometown of Padre Pio, the popular Italian saint.
One survivor, as well as motorists on the flyover, suggested the bus driver – who died in the crash – may have lost control because of a burst tyre. The bus swung wildly as it sped onto the flyover, crashing into cars and injuring 15 motorists before scraping down the concrete barrier until it gave way.
By Monday morning, the bodies were laid out in a school gym in the small town of Monteforte Irpino, where relatives of the dead started arriving at dawn
“I have lost my sister and her son – my wife just called me at work to tell me to come here,” said Amadeo Musto, 56.
“People here still can’t believe what is happening,” said Giuseppe Di Lorenzo, who had arrived to pay his respects to a childhood friend who died in the crash with the friend’s wife and sister-in-law.
Premier Enrico Letta’s cabinet was due to declare a period of national mourning. “This is a sad day, there are no words,” said Letta.
The bus trip was organied by Luciano Caiazzo, 40, who worked in a salami shop in Pozzuoli and had been organising weekend jaunts for friends and neighbours for 15 years. He was killed in the crash.
“He was a great organiser. Setting up trips to religious sanctuaries and fun trips was his passion,” said Salvatore Defelice, 42, a friend. Members of the excursion groups mainly hailed from three tight-knit neighbourhoods in Pozzuoli – Toiano, Monterusciello and Licola. “Everyone there will know someone who died,” said Defelice.
“People today have been very dignified in the face of what is the biggest disaster to hit Pozzuoli,” said Matteo Sperandeo, the general secretary of Pozzuoli’s town council.
The coffins were loaded into a fleet of hearses bound for Pozzuoli, where a funeral mass is planned this morning.
l More than 40 passengers were reported to be injured, four seriously, last night) after two trains collided head-on just outside a station at Granges-pres-Marnand in western Switzerland. Emergency services rushed to the scene at 7pm (local time) around 31 miles southwest of Bern.