Mestre bus tragedy - removal of bus by crane. Image by fire brigade

Mestre bus tragedy: 21 dead

By Region News North-east Italy

Italy was in shock on Wednesday after 21 people died in a Mestre bus tragedy. On Tuesday evening, a bus plunged from an overpass above a railway line between the Venice districts of Mestre and Marghera.

Rescuers at the Mestre bus tragedy scene said it was mostly a “tragedy of young or very young people”.

Paolo Rosi, the coordinator of Suem 118 Veneto emergency service unit, said a baby, a 12-year-old child and an older minor were among the victims. He also said four of the injured people were in intensive care.

Venice Prefect Michele Di Bari said Wednesday that the local council and the Veneto regional government were requesting the declaration of three days of mourning. “It is a time of mourning for everyone, a time to remain silent.”

He said seven victims have been identified so far – five Ukrainian citizens, one German and the bus’s Italian driver. He added four of the injured were Ukrainian, one German, one French, one Croatian, in addition to two Spanish and two Austrian. Four of the injured people were still to be identified. Three of them are minors, a Ukrainian hospitalised in Padua and two Germans in Treviso.

Veneto Governor Luca Zaia said he was particularly worried about a three-year-old girl who suffered serious burns in the crash. Premier Giorgia Meloni on Tuesday expressed her “most profound condolences” and said she was thinking of the victims and their families and friends.

What caused the Mestre bus tragedy?

The bus was travelling from the centre of Venice to a camping site. Venice prosecutors have opened an investigation to establish what happened.

The driver’s colleagues said he was an experienced professional. On Wednesday, it was suspected the accident was caused by the driver having a bad turn. “We will wait for the experts and the investigators to do their job to work out the dynamics of the accident,” Zaia said.

“Everything points to a bad turn but it is prudent not to advance any hypotheses… and consider technical problems or other factors”.

No other vehicle involved

The wreckage of the bus was removed from the scene of the accident overnight and taken to a depot. On Wednesday, Venice Prosecutor Bruno Cherchi ruled out the hypothesis that the bus had come into contact with another vehicle.

“We are working on (establishing) the dynamics of the accident, in which the bus touched the guardrail, slid along it for about 50 metres and, in the end, plummeted to the ground with a further push to the right,” Cherchi said.

“There are no signs of braking, or contact with other vehicles,” he added.

Cherchi said the alarm was first raised by the driver of another bus that was alongside the disaster bus on the overpass. The possibility the two buses had collided on the overpass had also been ruled out by eyewitnesses.

“The witnesses said that it (the second bus) was going slowly, the stretch of road it is uphill and in any case, objectively speaking, it does not make high speeds possible,” Cherchi said. He also stressed this would be verified.

“Identifying the victims is difficult,” Cherchi said. “Many did not have documents with them”.

He said he had ordered forensic doctors to do DNA tests if necessary and he hoped all the victims could be identified by Thursday. Cherchi added it would probably not be necessary to do autopsies on the victims, apart from the driver.

“It is our wish to return the bodies to the relatives as soon as possible,” he said.

Guard rail inadequate

The company that operated the bus has raised doubts about whether the guard-rail on the overpass the vehicle fell from was up to the job.

“From the video (of the accident) the guard-rail seems like a banister,” La Linea CEO Massimo Fiorese told ANSA. “The images of the recording that we have seen show the bus lean on the protection, which is virtually a banister”. 

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