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Thirteen killed in Polish tourist bus crash in Germany
Mon, Sep 27, 2010
AFP

BERLIN, Germany - A Polish tourist bus returning from Spain careered into a bridge on a rain-soaked German motorway Sunday, killing 13 people and leaving others injured fighting for their lives.

"A car collided with a Polish tourist coach... (which) then lost control and crashed with full force into the bridge pillar," fire brigade spokesman Arne Feuring told news channel N24 at the scene.

More than 300 members of the emergency services were at the scene, he added.

"The toll has risen to 13 dead, a man died of his injuries," police spokesman Jens Quitschke told AFP Sunday evening.

Another 19 people were seriously injured, some of whom were fighting for their lives, while 20 more had suffered light injuries, he added.

The crash was the most serious road accident in Germany this year, said the spokesman.

Germany's busy A10 motorway was closed for several hours as emergency services, assisted by half a dozen helicopters, dealt with the injured, cleared away the debris and began their investigation.

Pieces of metal and glass littered the ground the grey coach, which had its windshield and windows along one side shattered. Tents had been hastily erected nearby to treat the injured.

The bus, operated by coach company Pol-Bus, was carrying 47 passengers and two drivers, a spokeswoman at the Polish embassy in Berlin told AFP.

All the victims are Polish, the embassy added.

Police also said there were two children, aged 12 and 13 in the coach, but they did not yet have detailed information on all the dead and injured so could not say what had happened to them.

One of those in a critical condition was the 37-year-old woman at the wheel of the Mercedes car that collided with the bus, police added.

The driver of the coach was hurt, but his injuries were not reported to be life threatening.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk arrived at the scene Sunday evening to visit survivors, having flown in on a special flight, the embassy spokeswoman said.

German Chancelor Angela Merkel offered Tusk her condolences and promised that Germany would do everything it could to save the lives of the injured, a statement issued on the government's website said.

A police spokesman said that the car spun out of control at around 10:00 am (4pm Singapore time) as it joined the A10 motorway from the A113 not far from Berlin's Schoenefeld airport, south of the capital.

After colliding with the coach, the car ended up in a drainage ditch under the bridge.

It had been raining most of the night and morning, and investigators have opened an inquiry into the cause of the crash, examining if it was weather-related, police said.

Police spokesman Jens Quitschke said the coach was on its way back to Poland from Spain and that it was carrying people of all ages, not only young people as reported in German media.

The trip was organised by the forest service of the town of Zlocieniec in northwestern Poland, the TVN24 Polish telvision station reported.

The speaker of the European parliament, Poland's Jerzy Buzek, was "deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic deaths," Polish news agency PAP quoted him as saying.

Prosecutors in Szczecin in northwestern Poland said that they would also launch their own investigation.

"There hasn't been an accident like this with so many people involved in Brandenburg (state) for a long time," the Bild daily quoted Peter Salender, a spokesman for area police as saying.

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