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Bus disaster girl out of coma as nation mourns

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Coffins of
the victims at
Melsbroek
Military Airport in
Belgium
yesterday

Coffins of the victims at Melsbroek Military Airport in Belgium yesterday

Coffins of the victims at Melsbroek Military Airport in Belgium yesterday

A girl who was among the most seriously injured in the Switzerland bus crash on Tuesday came out of an induced coma yesterday as Belgium held a national day of mourning.

Lausanne hospital said the girl was "fully conscious" but had suffered multiple fractures and a spinal cord injury in the crash, which killed 22 children and six adults on their way home from a school skiing trip.

Two other children remained in induced comas. Doctors said it was too early to comment on their potential for recovery.

All the children involved were aged 11 or 12. Four teachers and teaching assistants and the bus's two drivers also died when their coach hit a wall in a two-mile stretch of tunnel.

No other vehicles were involved and Swiss officials have ruled out fatigue, alcohol or the driver's ill health as a cause of the accident.

They said reports that the driver had been operating the bus's entertainment system shortly before the crash could not be substantiated.

The dead were brought home on military airplanes yesterday, the first of which landed shortly before a minute's silence was held at 11am across the country.

Church bells tolled and flags flew at half-mast in Belgium and Holland. Six of the victims were Dutch and attended Stekske school in Lommel, which is just across the border.

A boy with a British father and Belgian mother was feared to be among the dead from St Lambertus, the school in Leuven, whose pupils were also on the coach.

In Lommel, teachers and children clutched hands at 11am as the bells of St Joseph's Roman Catholic church next door rang out. Children and teachers added contributions to the bank of bouquets, soft toys and messages along the school fence.

Grieving

A grieving father received his daughter's final letter from a Swiss ski resort two days after she died. "I'm still waiting and hoping that someone is going to phone me and say that it's a terrible mistake and that my little Emma is still alive," said Johan Moleman.

Swiss investigators were also examining whether the design of the tunnel contributed to the disaster. The coach is believed to have clipped a kerb inside the tunnel and veered into a lay-by, which ended at a brick wall.

The Swiss Federal Office for Roads was examining whether the angle of the wall increased the severity of the crash.

Spokesman Michael Mueller said: "In principle there is the possibility of slanting the angle of the bay, or protecting it with concrete or other elements."

He added: "Such a severe and tragic accident must always be taken as an opportunity to analyse the factors that could have influenced the causes and effects of the disaster." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent