Mourning after coach crash kills 28, including 22 schoolchildren

Whilst government seeks to reduce the numbers of people killed and seriously injured on the roads, there is no magic formula that will entirely eliminate these tragedies.

The wrecked Top Tours coach

On the 16th of February seven children and a teacher were killed when a truck lost control in rainy weather and crashed into a school bus which was on the return to the city of Ramallah because the driver decided to turn back as the storms worsened and it had no use to go on a school excursion with such weather. (1)

On the18th of February pupils from Alvechurch School were among 49 people on the coach, which crashed near Chalons-en-Champagne, in northern France.  Travel company Interski, which organised the trip, said the coach, which was returning to the UK from the Val d’Aosta in Italy left the motorway and came to rest at the bottom of an embankment. (2)

On Friday in the Andes in Peru at least sixteen people died in a bus crash.

Meisjes busongeluk ontwaken uit coma

Flowers for the youngsters

In the previous articles we looked at the victims of several wars. For them in many places is erected a war memorial. Also in front of St Joseph’s church in Kolonie-Lommel. It calls on passers-by to “remember forever” the “children of this village” who were killed in the 1914-18 war. Twenty yards to the left, outside the neat, low buildings of the Stekske elementary school, another memorial grew like weed the previous days: a 40-yard-long carpet of flowers, balloons, children’s drawings, poems, candles and teddy bears.

Kolonie-Lommel, a neat, wooded, suburban village of 3,000 people, running along the Belgian-Dutch border, has once again been left to mourn a lost generation of children. This time, fate has dealt the village an even more savage blow than the ravages of war.

9 children from Belgium and 6 from Holland living in Lommel,originally a hardscrabble glass-making town, plus 1 from Holland, 1 from the UK (11 years old Sebastian Bowles) and 5 from Belgium in Heverlee (part of Leuven) lost their life in a coach crash at Sierre in Wallis, after a skiing trip in Val d’Anniviers in the Swiss Alps. Six adults accompanying the party, including teachers and two bus drivers, were killed in the crash. A further 24 pupils were injured, many of them seriously.
Today three girls woke up from their coma and the Swiss hospital made arrangements to repatriate them one of these days.

Their beautiful ski-holiday ended leaving their parents with a lot of questions and bringing a black day for all of Belgium. Though it showed how much unity in feeling for each other there is in the small country. All seemed again united under the three-colour flag strapped together with a black ribbon.

Investigations are still going on why the bus hit the barrier stones on the right side of the road and then hit the tunnel wall head on in an emergency stop space. Because of the strong impact the bus was badly damaged and several passengers were trapped in the wreckage, the passengers catapulted at a high speed with a weight of 1,6 ton. The impact of the crash was so violent that most of the seats were torn out of the floor.

Christian Varone, the police chief in the Swiss canton of Valais, told a news conference that rescuers were greeted by what he called “a scene like a war.”

“We have had a number of serious accidents in Valais but nothing like this, with so many young victims,” he added.

Alain Rittiner, a seasoned rescue worker who was one of the first on the scene, said what he found was “worse than anything you can imagine”.

“The screams of the children were the first thing we heard,” he told Swiss television.

Jean-Pierre Deslarzes, the officer heading the rescue, said: “The rescuers have seen scores of road accidents, but this one has left many of them traumatised.”

The A9 highway was closed in both directions to aid the rescue, with eight helicopters and 12 ambulances taking victims to hospitals. Dozens of police and firefighters, 15 doctors and three psychologists were also called to the scene. {3}

Parents of the 22 young victims were flown to Switzerland after the accident and Thursday undertook the heartbreaking task of identifying their dead children in a morgue in the town of Sion. Many families took flowers and laid them on a road bridge overlooking the tunnel.

Last Friday on the day of national mourning the entire nation, Flemings and Walloons, Dutch-speakers and French-speakers, natives and immigrants, paused for one minute at 11am to remember the dead. Tomorrow there shall be a remembrance service in Lommel and on the coming Thursday in Heverlee.

The school in Lommel ‘ t Stekske, “little stake” or “little piece of territory”, has lost a spray and felt a stab of pain.

Bart Peeters en Scala op afscheidsplechtigheid in Lommel

Choreographer Luc Morren, director of the memorial service

Luc Morren, danceteacher in Tilburg and choreographer by Pantarei, Stichting Dans en Imago Tijl, shall direct the remembrance service tomorrow in big hall for 500 spectators.
Scala and Bart Peeters shall take care of the music.

This morning the Sint-Lambertusschool in Heverlee had the visit of some of the children who survived the accident.
On Thursday that school shall be closed for the memorial service at the Sint Pieters Church in Leuven.

Already more than 3000 people wrote something in the memorial register at the town hall of Leuven.

Kindjes terug op bezoek in school in Heverlee

Children back to school in Heverlee


(1) Grief at West Bank school-bus tragedy

(2) British teacher dies in school coach crash in France

{3} Until today, the worst accident in a Swiss highway tunnel happened in 2001, when two lorries collided in the Gotthard tunnel killing 11 people.

One of Europe’s deadliest tunnel accidents happened in March 1999, when 39 people were killed after a lorry caught fire in the Mont Blanc tunnel between France and Italy. The blaze burned for two days while firefighters tried to reach victims and vehicles trapped in the tunnel under Western Europe’s highest peak.


Please do find more: Tragic coach crash in the Swiss Alps

Dutch article: Jongeren gedragen in de harten van vele Belgen

For those trying to comfort their children: Child Bereavement Service A guide to supporting children immediately after the death of someone close to them.

Be ready to answer questions, immediately and over the next days, weeks, months and years.

Do not be afraid of sharing your emotions. It helps them to understand their own.

Find ways of comforting each other.

Younger children, up to five or six years old, do not have the understanding that death is permanent. They may keep asking when the dead person is coming back.
Be honest to the child, make it clear that the person is never to come back and that his or her life ended. Be honest, tell the truth, but find a balance between telling the raw truth and being sensitive.

Through activities and group discussion in a safe, non threatening and supportive environment, the children are helped to explore what has happened to them, to understand the feelings they are experiencing and to find ways of coping with those feelings.


  1. Twitter en Facebook in rep en roer door busramp in Sierre
  2. Meisjes busongeluk ontwaken uit coma
  3. 1.500 bezoekers aan Leuvense rouwkapel
  4. Vragen over buscrash blijven
  5. Afscheid van zeven kinderen op 22 maart in Leuven
    In de wandelzaal van het Leuvense stadhuis loopt vanaf zondag om 13 uur tot en met woensdag een tentoonstelling met foto’s van de overleden kinderen. “Iedereen kan er het rouwregister ondertekenen en dergelijke. Woensdagavond worden de foto’s overgebracht naar de Sint-Pieterskerk met fakkels.
  6. Sint-Lambertusschool Heverlee sluit online rouwregister af
    Sinds de opening van het rouwregister woensdag om 11 uur betuigden al 20.089 mensen uit binnen- en buitenland via dit kanaal hun steun naar aanleiding van het dramatische busongeval in Zwitserland. Daarbij lieten zeven kinderen uit het zesde studiejaar, een leerkracht en een monitrice van de school in Heverlee het leven.
  7. Afscheid van verongelukte begeleidster
    In de kleine parochiekerk van Lommel-Heide-Heuvel is deze ochtend afscheid genomen van Veerle Vanheukelom (37), de secretaresse van basisschool ‘t Stekske die vorige week dinsdag samen met vijftien leerlingen en een leerkracht omkwam tijdens het noodlottige busongeluk in Zwitserland.
  8. Reconstruction video: Reconstructiefilmpje van busongeluk
  9. Expression of support: Lommel Steun betuiging


About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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