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Tribute paid to victims of Sierre coach accident

Relatives of the Sierre bus crash victims lay down flowers in a ceremony attended by Swiss President Ignazio Cassis, (row behind, far right), and Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, (same row, second from right), on March 13 © Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

Officials and relatives have been attending a ceremony in Switzerland to mark the tenth anniversary of a fatal coach accident in which 28 people died, including 22 Belgian and Dutch children.

This content was published on March 13, 2022 - 17:11
Keystone-SDA/Swiss Foreign Ministry/SWI swissinfo.ch/ilj

A commemorative plaque to the accident, one of the worst of its kind in Switzerland, was unveiled on Sunday on the shores of Lake Géronde, in Sierre, in the west of the country.

Around 150 relatives took part in the event. Also attending was Swiss President Ignazio CassisBelgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, and the Dutch Minister of State Piet Hein Donner.

‘Not forgotten’

"13 March 2012 forever changed the lives of the 28 victims. The tragic accident that occurred that day left the people of Belgium, the Netherlands and all of Switzerland – especially in the canton of Valais – shaken to the core and united in grief with the families,” Cassis said according to a statementExternal link.

“Ten years on, we have not forgotten," said Cassis. Representatives of the Swiss, Belgian, Dutch and Valais authorities then laid wreaths at the site.

The coach was carrying 52 passengers from two Belgian schools returning from a ski holiday in March 2012 when it crashed into a tunnel wall on the A9 motorway between Sierre and Sion in canton Valais. Twenty-two children, all aged around 12, and six adults died. A further 24 children were injured. Around 200 people were involved in rescue efforts.

Investigation

A Swiss investigation confirmed in 2013 that the official cause of the bus crash was almost certainly driver error. Investigators said the 34-year-old driver had an unusual heart condition that may have brought on sudden illness, but the theory ended up being impossible to prove conclusively.  

He was also taking an anti-depressant medication, which was thought to increase suicidal impulses. However, the cantonal public prosecutor ruled that out as a possible cause of the crash and later ruled out bringing charges against the driver, who also died in the crash. 

Previous investigations had found the bus to be in good mechanical condition and that there were no shortcomings with the road surface or tunnel infrastructure. 

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