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Another serious bus accident during Easter travel

A few days after the serious bus accident on the Autobahn 9 near Leipzig, there was another bus accident during Easter travel, this time in North Rhine-Westphalia. On the night of Good Friday, a double-decker coach left the Autobahn 44 near Werl, drove into an embankment and crashed onto its side - according to the police, more than 20 people were injured. Pupils from a vocational college in Warburg on the border with Hesse were on their way back from a trip to England.

It was only on Wednesday morning that a double-decker coach left the road on the Autobahn 9 in Saxony and crashed onto its side - the sad result was four fatalities and more than 30 injuries. A 47-year-old Polish woman, a 20-year-old Indonesian woman living in Berlin and a 19-year-old woman from Bavaria died, the police announced on Thursday. The identity of the fourth woman has not yet been established beyond doubt.

According to initial police findings, the bus accident in North Rhine-Westphalia was preceded by a medical emergency involving the 53-year-old bus driver. No other vehicles were involved in the accident. A total of 21 passengers were reportedly injured, one of them seriously, but not life-threatening. 39 passengers were uninjured.

The bus driver also received medical treatment. According to reports, he was not injured externally as a result of the accident, despite the bus windshield being smashed. There were no indications of alcohol consumption or drugs, said a police spokesperson. Investigations are being carried out in all directions. According to initial police findings, the bus had veered off the road to the right. There it crashed into the crash barrier protruding from the ground and fell onto its side on the embankment.

On Wednesday, the double-decker Flixbus on the A9 in Saxony with 54 people on board, including the two drivers, left the road, crashed into the grass verge and flipped onto its side. In addition to the 4 fatalities, there were reportedly 6 serious injuries and 29 minor injuries. The public prosecutor's office is investigating the 62-year-old bus driver. The accusation: negligent homicide and negligent bodily injury, according to a spokesperson for the authorities. The spokesperson was unable to say whether the man had already been questioned.

There have been a number of serious coach accidents in recent years. Despite this, coaches are a relatively safe means of transportation. According to accident statistics, they are comparatively rarely involved in road accidents with personal injury.

"Nevertheless, cases in which accidents occur are often dramatic because the number of people affected can be high," said an ADAC spokesperson. According to the data, a total of eight people died in bus accidents inside and outside built-up areas in 2022 - a figure that is not unusual in a long-term comparison.

Henrik Liers, Managing Director of Traffic Accident Research at TU Dresden, told the "Leipziger Volkszeitung" (Saturday) with regard to the A9 accident: "Such tragic individual cases could help to raise awareness of the existing obligation to wear seat belts in coaches and their importance in an emergency." There is "certainly a lack of awareness" when it comes to compulsory seatbelts.

The ADAC also pointed out that seat belts have been compulsory in coaches since 1999. "It is not clear whether and how the individual companies check whether passengers are wearing their seat belts," said the spokesperson. Coach travelers are generally recommended to fasten their seat belts. According to the ADAC, coaches have also had to be equipped with a lane departure warning system since 2022. It was not initially known whether the bus involved in the accident had one. Such a system warns the driver, but does not prevent them from actually leaving the lane if they do not steer in the opposite direction.

Flix boss André Schwämmlein told "Bild" (online: Friday): "Every accident that has occurred and every single person injured is one too many. Unfortunately, despite strict safety measures, we cannot completely prevent accidents. We have therefore established a comprehensive safety concept for every Flixbus." For example, drivers' driving times and rest periods are regularly checked for compliance with applicable social regulations. Violations could lead to warnings or even dismissal.

Following the accident in Saxony, investigators are now focusing on finding the cause. All those injured who are being treated in hospital will be questioned if their state of health permits, as a spokeswoman for Leipzig police headquarters said on request. According to the public prosecutor's office, an accident analysis report on the bus will also be commissioned. The first results are not expected for several weeks, the spokesperson emphasized.

According to the police, the majority of the bus passengers were not from Germany. Of the 54 passengers, 18 were German nationals. The others came from more than 20 countries, including Peru, New Zealand, China, Canada and the USA.

The coach had crashed on the way from Berlin to Zurich. It had set off at 8.00 a.m. and the accident happened between the Wiedemar junction and the Schkeuditzer Kreuz junction at around 9.45 a.m. According to initial findings, no other vehicle was involved. According to the bus company, the driver of the bus is said to have complied with all driving and rest times. "There were two drivers on board, the driver on duty had been driving the bus since its departure from Berlin at 8 a.m.," it said.

CDU transport politician Christoph Ploss demanded consequences in the "Funke Mediengruppe" newspapers (online: Friday) following the accident on the A9: "I expect the safety authorities to take this terrible event as an opportunity to put all processes to the test and draw consequences for the safety of passengers. This applies to compliance with the legally prescribed rest periods, but also to the subcontractors who work for Flixbus." Passenger safety must have top priority.

©Keystone/SDA

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