Thursday 29 September 2016

Miracle escape for Irish students as 13 killed in coach crash tragedy

Three women suffer 'non-life-threatening injuries' in Spanish accident

Ralph Riegel and Gerard Couzens

Published 21/03/2016 | 02:30

At least three young Irish students miraculously escaped serious injury in an horrific Spanish coach accident which claimed 13 lives.

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The students were in Spain as part of an Erasmus exchange scheme when a coach they were in careered through a crash barrier before smashing into an oncoming car and overturning.

It was bringing students back to Barcelona from a fireworks festival in Valencia.

Officials confirmed that two Irish students were hospitalised after the collision at Tarragona but suffered "non-life-threatening injuries".

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan described the bus crash as "a truly tragic incident" and warned that the details of those who have lost their lives have not been released yet.

"We are waiting on the authorities to pass on that information before we can definitively rule out further Irish involvement," he said.

Emergency personnel operate on the Spanish AP-7 motorway near Freginals. Photo: Getty
Emergency personnel operate on the Spanish AP-7 motorway near Freginals. Photo: Getty
Forensic experts inspect the wreckage of the bus. Photo: Reuters
A body is removed from the scene of the crash. Photo: Getty
Emergency services personnel at the scene of the coach crash on the AP7 highway along the Mediterranean coast halfway between Valencia and Barcelona in Spain. Photo: AP

A total of 13 died - all women aged in their 20s - while a further 43 people were injured.

The coach driver, who is described as very experienced, survived the collision and is assisting Spanish police.

David Cooney, the Irish Ambassador to Spain, said officials had contacted the families of the two injured students.

"As far as we are aware, the situation is reasonably good," he said. "They are in separate hospitals some distance away from each other along the coast of Catalonia.

"We will be maintaining contact with the families to see what, if any, consular assistance is required."

A University College Cork (UCC) spokesperson last night confirmed that three of its students were involved in the accident but said that all of them had avoided serious injury.

"Three UCC students were on the bus," the spokesperson said.

"Thankfully, all are fine. Two were uninjured and one sustained only minor injuries."

It is understood that one student was treated in a Spanish hospital for cuts, bruises and shock. All three UCC students were studying at Barcelona University.

"The UCC international education office has been in touch with the families of the students involved to offer support," UCC added.

It is understood that UCC is also liaising with the Spanish university where the students were placed as part of their Erasmus exchange.

As well as Irish students, the coach was carrying British, Swiss, Peruvian, Turkish, Norwegian, Mexican and Spanish youngsters.

Mexican exchange student Victor Pano Torres (21) was treated with a neck brace at a hotel near the crash scene, where the less seriously injured were taken.

"I was asleep and don't remember anything," he said.

"The accident woke me up. A friend was travelling in front of me but thankfully he's okay too."

The trip was one of a number of monthly trips organised by the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), which put on five buses at the weekend to bring students to a festival in Valencia on Saturday morning.

Critical

The bus that crashed was the final coach to leave Valencia as the students were undertaking the return leg to Barcelona.

It was not initially clear which bus each student had travelled on, causing some confusion for the local authorities. That also made it more difficult to identify students who were injured or killed.

Officials said 63 people were caught up in the accident, with 34 hospitalised. Three of those were in a critical condition, nine were in a serious condition and 22 had minor injuries.

A team of 17 forensic experts spent the day at the scene as authorities look to identify what caused the accident.

Anyone with concerns can contact the Department of ­Foreign Affairs on (01) 408 2000.

Irish Independent

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