Venice mayor described scene as “apocalyptic”.
At least 21 people died and 15 were injured on Tuesday evening when a bus crashed off an overpass near Venice in northern Italy and caught fire after falling close to electricity lines.
The accident happened at around 19.45 when the bus broke through a barrier in Mestre, the mainland town connected to Venice by a bridge over the lagoon.
Two of those killed were children while five of the 15 injured, all taken to nearby hospitals, were reportedly in critical condition.
The victims of the crash included five Ukrainians and one German, stated Venice prefect Michele Di Bari, while news agency ANSA reported that there were also French and Croatian citizens on board.
“The bus fell 30 metres and crumpled in on itself”, Di Bari told RaiNews24, adding that it was a private vehicle transporting tourists to a campsite in Marghera.
#Marghera (VE), bus precipitato da cavalcavia: 15 persone soccorse dai 60 #vigilidelfuoco al lavoro, conclusa l’ispezione all’interno del mezzo. Verifica in corso per escludere presenza di persone sotto il pullman [#3ottobre 22:00] pic.twitter.com/LyCjmScE5j— Vigili del Fuoco (@vigilidelfuoco) October 3, 2023
The cause of the incident is not yet known however one line of enquiry being followed by investigators is that the 40-year-old Italian driver, who was among those killed, took ill at the wheel moments before the crash, as there were no apparent signs of braking on the road.
Italy’s interior minister Matteo Piantedosi told TG1 said that the bus was powered by methane, describing this as a possible “aggravating factor” in relation to the fire that engulfed the vehicle.
Among the first responders was a worker from Gambia, 27-year-old Boubacar Toure, who told RAI that he pulled “three or four people out of the flames, including a little girl. I also pulled out a dog.”
The Patriarch of Venice, Bishop Francesco Moraglia, went to the crash site and prayed over the bodies of the victims who were lined up in a row and covered in blankets.
Un’immane tragedia ha colpito questa sera la nostra comunità.
Ho disposto da subito il lutto cittadino, in memoria delle numerose vittime che erano nell’autobus caduto.
Una scena apocalittica, non ci sono parole. pic.twitter.com/APnsQoPMkL— Luigi Brugnaro (@LuigiBrugnaro) October 3, 2023
Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro described the crash as an “immense tragedy” and an “apocalyptic scene”, declaring the city in mourning, while the governor of the surrounding Veneto region, Luca Zaia, said that flags at public buildings would fly at half mast on Wednesday.
Italy’s premier Giorgia Meloni and president Sergio Mattarella both expressed their condolences, with messages of condolence also coming from French president Emmanuel Macron and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.