(AP) Bus crash in southern Italy kills 38 people
By FRANCES D’EMILIO
An Italian tour crushed through a sidewall of a highway bridge in southern Italy, and plunged some 30 meters (100 feet) into a wooded ravine, killing at least 38 people, authorities said Monday.
Rescuers wielding electric saws cut through the twisted wreckage of the bus overnight, looking for survivors after it had plunged to the ground on Sunday night. At least 10-meters of the wall was torn away, large chunks were visible in a clearing below.
The bus lost control near the town of Monteforte Irpino in Irpinia, a largely agricultural area about 40 miles (60 kilometers) inland from Naples and about 250 kilometers (160 miles) south of Rome, hitting several cars before plunging off the viaduct. Traffic on the stretch was slowed due to road work, officials said.
State radio quoted a local police chief as saying the bus driver was among the dead. It was not immediately clear why the bus driver lost control of the vehicle, but prosecutors were investigating technical problems and had ordered an autopsy on the driver.
A reporter for Naples daily Il Mattino, Giuseppe Crimaldi, told Sky TG24 TV from the scene that some witnesses told him the bus had been going at a “normal” speed on the downhill stretch of the highway when it suddenly veered and started hitting cars. Some witnesses thought they heard a noise as if the bus had blown a tire.
The bus was carrying a group of weekend holidaymakers from the Naples. The group had arrived from small towns near Naples at a hotel at a the thermal spa on Friday afternoon, and had spent the weekend visiting the spa and an early home of Padre Pio, a late mystic monk popular among Catholics, Michele Montagna, the manager of the hotel told Sky TG24.
Relatives visited a make-shift morgue in a middle school to identify the dead on Monday. The bus, meanwhile, was towed from the site to be examined for possible malfunctions.
Firefighters extracted 37 bodies from the wreckage. Most of the dead were found inside the mangled bus, which lay on its side , while a few of the victims were pulled out from underneath the wreckage, state radio and the Italian news agency ANSA reported. One died at the hospital.
At least 10 people, including five children, remained hospitalized on Monday.
Occupants of cars which were hit by the bus stood on the highway near their vehicles. One car’s rear was completely crumpled, while another was smashed on its side. It was not immediately known if anyone in those cars had been injured.
Salvatore Laporta and Gregorio Borgia contributed to this report from Monteforte Irpino.