The long existing safety issue at level crossings in France is again in the headlines as a train ploughed into a school bus at a crossing. The incident that took place in south-west France killed at least five school pupils.
In the recent years, the number of people dying at the level crossings in France have been growing, which make for an alarming reading. From the year 2011 to 2016, nearly 187 people have lost their lives at the level crossing in France.
In the recent incident, more than 20 children are reported to be injured, out of which nine have critical injuries. Majority of the victims are aged between 13 and 17.
When the school bus was hit, it was 12 miles west of Perpignan, in the Pyrénées-Orientales, and was moving towards the village of Villefranche-de-Conflent. The bus was of Christian Bourquin secondary school at Millas, which was carrying pupils to two villages, including Saint Féliu d’Avall and Saint Féliu d’Amont.
Robert Olive, the mayor of Saint Féliu d’Amont, went to the scene and described it as a “horrific sight.” He said that he was “deeply shocked.”
In a statement to the local radio France Bleu Roussillon, Olive said, “I don’t know what happened, but the school bus had been actually cut in two by the passing train. The bus appeared to have exploded. People were being very dignified but everyone was shocked.”
According to the reports, the accident happened at an automatic crossing on a two-lane country road. The school bus driver was identifies as a 48-year-old woman, who was also seriously injured. The bus had crossed a single-track railway line, secured by a simple striped barrier and warning lights in each direction.
The bus can be seen sliced into half in the photographs from the scene, which was described as a “serious rail accident” by the authorities.
Around 95 firefighters, 10 rescue vehicles and four helicopters as well as emergency medics were dispatched to the location. The injured were taken to the hospital via helicopters.
The French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe got emotional after visiting Perpignan and meeting families of victims. He described the entire accident as a “terrible drama.”
Philippe said, “The circumstances have not yet been determined and will be the subject of a legal inquiry to throw light on the circumstances of the drama.”
He informed that nearly 24 people had been caught up in the collision. He also added that identifying some of the victims has become difficult because of the severity of the crash.
The accident has been recorded as one of the worst involving a vehicle, since 1982, which killed 53 people, including 44 children, when a coach caught fire while taking youngsters on a holiday at Beaune, central France.