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Coach carrying Poles crashes in France killing 26
NOTRE-DAME-DE-MESAGE, France (Reuters) - At least 26 Polish pilgrims died on Sunday when their coach crashed off a mountain road at a notorious accident blackspot in the French Alps and burst into flames, police and officials said.
A further 24 people were injured, 14 critically, when the coach smashed through a roadside barrier on the steep Laffrey gradient, some 30 km (19 miles) from the southeastern city of Grenoble, after apparently suffering problems braking.
The coach plunged 40 metres (130 feet) down the slopes before coming to rest on the banks of the Romanche river.
Most of the victims perished in the fire, said emergency officials, and DNA forensic experts from Paris would be needed to identify the bodies.
Several bodies were laid out beneath white sheets on the grassy river banks, the wrecked coach smouldering in the background as fire crews doused it with foam. Helicopters and emergency vehicles ferried the injured to hospital in Grenoble.
Reports said the Poles, from the Szczecin area of northwest Poland, had been due to return home on Tuesday after two weeks of pilgrimage in Spain and France.
"My daughter got in touch with me. She's got a broken leg and collarbone and head injuries and is badly shaken up," Poland's TVN24 quoted a weeping Malgorzata Wachowiak as saying of her daughter, Karolina, aged 22.
Robert Caban, owner of the Polish transport firm that hired out the coach, told the Polish news agency PAP the drivers were experienced and the 7-year-old Scania coach had passed technical inspections recently in Germany.
France's LCI television quoted him as saying he had alerted his men to the route's dangers. He said he had driven the coach himself recently and its brakes had then worked well.
Angry locals called for action to prevent more deaths on the steep stretch of road and President Nicolas Sarkozy, who visited survivors in hospital with Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski, promised action once an official investigation was complete.
"For the moment we don't now exactly what happened, but what's is certain is that it was an extremely serious disaster which cannot remain without a response," Sarkozy told reporters.
Kaczynski thanked Sarkozy and medical staff for their efforts, before adding: "The worst thing is that this type of accident has happened before in the same spot."
A presidential aide, Maciej Lopinski, earlier told PAP the victims' families would receive financial support from a special presidential fund.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who visited the crash site, said the Polish coach did not appear to have a permit for the dangerous stretch of road, a rule imposed after a spate of crashes in the 1970s left scores dead.
Black tyre marks stretching several yards were visible on the tarmac approaching the accident spot, and a local public prosecutor quoted witnesses as saying they had seen sparks flying from underneath the vehicles moments before it left the road. Other witnesses reported an unusual black smoke.
Investigators are expected to focus on the braking system and speed of the coach, and will want to speak to the second driver who survived the smash.
I've never heard of needing permits for a stretch of road. How would a foreign driver (and I mean any driver not just a coach), know that a permit is required? Do they have "no entry" signs up and are they in many languages?
There are many dangerous roads for coaches in Europe. For example the trip up the mountain to monte cassino in Italy is particularly precarious. In northern Europe they usually have extensive precautions in place. I think I remember this being the case when I went on a trip to visit the "eagles nest" in Bavaria. Transport there had special brakes I think and this was back in the late 80s. However, there used to be different attitudes to safety in different countries. Although I would have said France was more safety conscious than Italy or Greece. So this is surprising for france. Perhaps there was a mechanical fault in the coach.
They just said on the radio (RMF FM) that the coach firm had previously forged documents including tachograph discs & is under investigation at the moment after complaints from a travel agency who've used them.
But whatever happened, it's sad.
Well it seemed to have travelled safely for nearly two weeks thus far so I think we need to wait for the investigation if you think the company was to blame. If it's such a dangerous and controversial track of road then they need to do something about it to stop just anyone driving on it.
I suppose it will all come out in the wash. It sounds like a horrible accident. Every year there seems to be a bad coach accident. I feel really sorry for the families.
Can you imagine what was going through the minds of those poor people when it veered out of control and went over the edge. How awful. One minute you are having a relaxing time, carefree and happy and the next it is over and you are terrified. Yes my thoughts are with the families and the injured too. Some survivors will probably never have a normal life again. Very sad.
In similar news:
Bus accident in western Poland leaves 23 injured
WARSAW, Poland: A bus ran off a road and flipped onto its side Sunday in western Poland, leaving 23 people injured, police said, just hours after 26 Polish pilgrims died in another bus accident in France.
In the incident in Poland, the bus was carrying 47 passengers from Belarus to Germany when it slammed through the guardrail on the A2 highway near Poznan and slid onto its side, Wielkopolska police spokesman Romuald Piecuch said.
The 23 people hurt, including five with serious injuries, were rushed to hospitals in Poznan, Piecuch said. Most of the passengers were Belarusian, he said.
Police were investigating the cause of the accident.
Earlier Sunday, 26 Polish pilgrims died in France when their bus plunged off a steep mountain road, crashed into a river bank and burst into flames near the village of Vizille, not far from Grenoble.
Rod Stewart concert cancelled as Poland mourns crash victims
Warsaw - Legendary rocker Rod Stewart cancelled a concert scheduled for Tuesday in the Polish Baltic port city of Gdansk as Poland mourned 27 Poles killed in a Sunday bus crash in the French Alps near Grenoble.
Stewart was expected to give a press conference later Monday. Organisers said the concert may be rescheduled for later this week.
Twenty-seven Poles died and a further 24 were injured Sunday after their bus sped off a cliff on a steep road in the French Alps. Polish media reported Monday that brake failure and driver error are thought to have been the causes behind the tragedy.
Poland's President Lech Kaczynski announced a 3-day period of national mourning until Wednesday midnight upon his return early Monday morning from the crash site in France.
The Poles were returning home from a Roman Catholic pilgrimage to Catholic holy sites primarily in Spain.
Deutsche Presse-Agentur - http://www.dpa.de
OK - Devil's Advocate time again.
Do we really need three days of official mourning every time there are multiple deaths in accidental circumstances?
Yes, it's sad; yes, it's a tragedy. But to force the rest of us to wallow in grief is blowing it out of all proportion. More people die each year in donkey-related accidents - should we have a 'Black Ass' day every time something like that happens?
Like some on here, I grew up in London in the 70s and we had our fair share of 'disasters' - train crashes (Lockerbie anyone?) and so on, not to mention the loving attentions of the IRA. Not once do I remember a concert being cancelled or shops being closed. The only concession I remember is an Airport film being replaced by something else on the evening of a different plane crash.
Agreed. Poles seem to like to dwell on such death.
Mark, Poles are a mite more sentimental than Brits. There is no "stiff upper lip"/pull yourself together mentality. It's also a sign of respect to victims.
re : UK ...what about the Princess of Wales national grieving...? Also there were moments of silence and such for 9/11 and 7/7.
There seem to be fewer strong outpourings of grief for disasters in the UK maybe because people are more desensitised and live more insular lives than in Poland. Also I guess any disaster brings back memories of the mass slaughter in Poland during WWII.
I think this particular tragedy is likely to be very emotive in Poland. I find it shocking and I am not usually moved by such things.
I think to say that a coach crash brings back memories of the holocaust is going too far, the only common denominator being death.
Sentimentality also doesn't really come into it, although I'll let you have the stiff upper lip. I'm not a believer in the 'big boys don't cry' school of thought, but the outpourings of grief over Diana were ridiculous, based entirely as they were upon a misplaced perception of a manipulative woman. This was, in my opinon, the turning point - the time when everyone 'supersized' their emotional reactions, American style-eee.
9/11 was an event deserving in the paying of our respects (and more wothy of your holocaust analogy), but although it was a premeditated attack (as opposed to a road or donkey accident) there's only so many times you can keep dragging it up before it loses pertinence. It happened, it was terrible, we grieve and sympathise, but we must move on.
I'm sure it's my selfishness talking, but I don't see why I should have outside influences telling me how I should live my life and when and for whom I should feel sorry. Terrible as it may sound, I tolerated the wailing and gnashing of teeth when the Pope died as it was pertinent - not to me, but to the community I live in. However, when a party my son was supposed to go to was cancelled by my company because a building collapsed 500km away and involved absolutely no-one connected in any way to anyone who was due to take part, that's when I decided I'd had enough.
I'm sure I'll have put a few noses out of joint with this, but I'll bet there are a few more out there (in addition to Hans) who will agree. I just wonder if they'll have the nerve to post.
... i'm surprised by the crassness of the tv coverage ...
I'm sure I'll have put a few noses out of joint with this, but I'll bet there are a few more out there (in addition to Hans) who will agree. I just wonder if they'll have the nerve to post.
I'd also agree.
Flags at half-mast in every town in Poland; Polish websites in black; governMENTAL wastage of enormous amounts of taxpayers money in jetting off President and numerous hangers-on on a vote gathering PR visit to France; constant reporting, re-reporting and rehashing of the same, let's face it, minor-league, diversionary story by the Polish media ...
For those concerned and their families this was, of course, a tragedy. But for the wider population?
You're a hard hearted lot to be sure....
Presidents usually go to such incidents. It's the right thing to do.
All accidental deaths are a tragedy, but when it happens en masse like this it is always more shocking. e.g. lockerbie, hillsborough, hungerford etc.
Ania - Serious question:
Why is it 'the right thing to do' for a career politcian to visit a coach crash?
Is he going to roll up his sleeves and get stuck in to clearing the wreckage? Maybe do a shift down in intensive care?
It is nothing more that a self-promoting media exercise to improve his public image. And for that, he should be roundly castigated, as should everyone who uses other people's misery for their own ends.
"Why is it 'the right thing to do' for a career politcian to visit a coach crash?"
Surely it's just something politicians do to show solidarity with the victims and demonstrate that they have taken time out of their busy schedule to note the incident. It's just a gesture of public support and to note how important the incident is. It's the same as Richard Branson turning up at the virgin train crash this year. If such a high profile figure turns up it shows that they are taking the accident seriously and not just ignoring it.
What thought and respect is given to the many people killed by half-witted drivers in Poland, each and every day? None.
Surely it's just something politicians do to show solidarity with the victims and demonstrate that they have taken time out of their busy schedule to note the incident. It's just a gesture of public support and to note how important the incident is.
No. It's a out-and-out self-promotional PR exercise.
I'm not sure if I'm being too cynical or if you're being too naive, Ania.
It's a publicity stunt, nothing more, nothing less. However, I DO believe that your example of Branson doing it is one where it really was done as a gesture of solidarity. Firstly, because he had nothing to gain by showing his face there and everything to lose by associating himself with the carnage; secondly because I really and honestly believe that he has the best intestests of his customers at heart in every single one of his businesses.
Politics and politicians in Poland cannot be compared to those in the UK .
Spot on, Si.
And the sad thing is, I can just see Tweedle-Dum wringing his hands in delight when he heard the news and saying in a sing-song voice: "Oh joy! we's never beens to GreNOble before!"
Fucking disgrace. Pardon my French.
but see him on the slope, i can't ...
You have a good opinion on politicians outside Poland then?
If he didn't go there would be an outcry and criticism. It's expected of him.
Blair was always cutting holidays short to attend various disasters and was that not also a publicity stunt? Personal opinions aside, the president as leader of a country is expected to attend such things.
The first time one of these shysters did it, they set a precedent which all spongers that follow in his wake the world over are happy to indulge.
I apologize for using old statistics from 1997 but there are over 17 road/automotive deaths per day in Poland. So, over the course of three days of mourning more people died on Polish roads than in the coach.
Fuck me - that's another 3 days of black logos in the bag.
Nice one Slep
Yes and how many people die of natural causes every day...
"Agreed. Poles seem to like to dwell on such death. "
once again, the German knows Poles better than other Poles on here.
It is an interesting subject, that is Polish tendencies to dwell on tragedies.
As far as Kaczynski going to the crash site - heck, why not. It's free press for him.
Ania – there is no parallel between this tragic accident and WWII, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Thames overflowing. Let’s not get carried away.
It’s a ROAD ACCIDENT. Tragic, but nothing out of the ordinary. They happen every day.
I think it's healthy to mourn openly. It only makes people uncomfortable if they are not in touch with their own emotions.
"It’s a ROAD ACCIDENT. Tragic, but nothing out of the ordinary. They happen every day. "
Mike 26 deaths is considered more than your typical road accident. If a train crash happens which kills fewer people in the UK it gets mass publicity and visits from high profile people.
Hungerford had 16 deaths. The clapham rail disaster had 35 deaths and is still considered a huge tragedy in rail history. Hillsborough had 96 deaths. London bombings (7/7) had 37 deaths. The kings cross fire in 1987 had 31 deaths.
These are all disasters etched on british emotions and psyches. They were all on television for weeks if not months. In fact screening of hillsborough caused viewers to seek legal redress from the BBC for nervous shock. The kings cross fire was particularly shocking at the time and even now I find it hard to think about. I did not want to go inside there for years after. Yet only 31 people.
"Ania – there is no parallel between this tragic accident and WWII, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Thames overflowing. Let’s not get carried away. "
we were talking about national outpourings of grief mike and attitudes to death. Maybe you need to re-read look at the comments in context as the discussion went a bit off subject.
when did the thames overflow? Have I missed something?
Road accidents happen every day. Everything else you described does not.
So you think that this incident calls for 3 days on national mourning?
erm no again I was talking about mass grief in general. Coach crashes that kill 26 are not everyday Mike. Maybe in india or somewhere but not in europe.
Like so much here, the 3 days of mourning must be real because it's official and has a rubber stamp on the ustaw. In reality, l can't get to sleep here in Sopot because of a concert which so far has played all 10 Polish hit records at full volume (gloomy enough lyrics to be mourning music anyway) and shows no sign of stopping.
But official mourning periods are a tradition here & in some other countries anyway and that's just their way of acknowledging a tragedy. 3 days may be overkill, but that's how they do it.
If we did it in UK, we'd never have a break from it - anybody remember Flixborough, Lofthouse, Morecambe Bay, Herold of Free Enterprise, & the brave heroes of Irish liberty at Omagh, Birmingham, Guildford etc?
The Poles thankfully didn't have to deal with that and see such tragedies as the Grenoble crash differently.
No, they didn't have to deal with the events you name, but they DID have to deal with another far more large scale tragedy that was mentioned earlier.
I've lived in Poland for 15 years now, and I cannot remember 3 days of national mourning happening before the death of the Pope. Since then, they've become ten a penny and as such are being devalued with each occurrence.
"If we did it in UK, we'd never have a break from it - anybody remember Flixborough, Lofthouse, Morecambe Bay, Herold of Free Enterprise, & the brave heroes of Irish liberty at Omagh, Birmingham, Guildford etc?"
No they don't have national mourning days they just talk endlessly about these for months on end in the news. It gets played and replayed then there is an official enquiry lasting months if not years to find out(and pay experts to analyse) what everyone knows in the first place. (for diana there were two enquiries and a private one I think). However, they need to find blame in the UK because there is a strong blame and finger pointing culture here.
You forgot the ferry disaster in belgium (was it ostend?). Where they didn't close the doors to the car deck (another enquiry found that someone did not close the doors).
The ferry disaster was the Herald of Free Enterprise. And belieul me, there'll be enquiries and TV discussions ad infinitum here in Poland about the Grenoble crash.
The war, which Mark mentioned, can only be directly remembered by people over 70, who were children at the time. It was a very different kettle of fish. The war was a devastating tragedy in many countries and it is worth reflecting how different countries remember it. Periods of national mourning seem to be more and more popular here - a reaction to disasters by temporarily changing the behaviour of a nationality who throughout history have believed in "look after number one", "every man for himself" and "po co".
Interesting that the media and chattering classes here are (very Polish-ly) looking to apportion blame elsewhere, from French roadsigns to GPS equiptment. After all, the driver & coach owner are Polish, so it can't be their fault!
The only thing the enquiry uncovered was the fact that it was common practice for ferries to set sail with the bow doors open and water sloshing about inside. Malpractice bred by complacency, but Townshend Torrenson's fault nonetheless.
The same is true with the coach crash. The company has a track record of cutting corners and now were seeing the results. As the saying goes: 'you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows' - but that unfortunately doesn't mean that this time we'll be able to do without the gravy train that follows these disasters.
"The ferry disaster was the Herald of Free Enterprise."
There was another I was thinking of called the Marchioness. Was the Marchioness the pleasure boat on the thames?
Yes, that was the one hit by the dredger Bow Belle.
"The war, which Mark mentioned, can only be directly remembered by people over 70, who were children at the time."
It also left a scar on future generations, People like me whose father went through siberia. Or others whose parents were affected by concentration camps etc.
My mother was 7 when the war broke out and her life changed beyond recognition. She tends to blow small crises out of proportion and has a thing about death and that attitude tends to carry over. I think it is down to her anxiety during WWII when she grew up under constant tension and uncertainty. She had post traumatic stress after my grandmother was almost raped by a soviet soldier who tried to break into their house in the middle of the night. My father never got over the war so I should imagine in Poland there are many similar stories of kids growing up with overstressed parents. Stress carries over generations.
(Lofthouse - there were weeping willows planted near my school as a memorial.)
The roads near Grenoble are incredibly difficult to drive on. Incidentally, that's near to where I met my wife back in 1987.
I've just had coffee with a couple of women I work with and they were amazed at the sight of the flood victims in England trying not to grumble. They commented on the contrast with Poles' melodramatic approach to life.
"they were amazed at the sight of the flood victims in England trying not to grumble. "
brings to mind the film "a fish called wanda" and the guy on the bicycle apologising to them every time otto knocks him over and saying he's fine.
"They commented on the contrast with Poles' melodramatic approach to life."
That reminds me of a joke:
Q: How many Polish-Americans does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: 170. One to send the Never Fail Novena to the Cheektowaga Times for publication so St. Jude may grant the lightbulb request, one to say the Last Rites for the old lightbulb, ten volunteer firemen to break into the house and smash the old light bulb to bits, fifty to protest the abortion of the old lightbulb, ten to organize a lawn fete and spaghetti dinner at Our Most Holy Precious Blood of the Seventeen Martyred Saints R.C. Church to raise funds to buy a new light bulb (and the Monsignor a new pair of bowling shoes as a gift on St. Stanislaus Day), twenty from Chiavettas Catering to serve the food, twenty to run the Monte Carlo gambling tent, fifty to run everything else, one to go to Koplinskis Appliances to buy the light bulb, one to screw it in, five to say the Rosary as the bulb is being screwed in, and the Monsignor to bless it.
If you grew up at a Polish American community anywhere in the US you find it hilarious (and accurate)
Yeah - guess you had to be there,
The driver should not have been using the road. Simple
The building should have been inspected properly so the roof wouldn't have collapsed under the weight of snow.
Ooops sorry wrong story but still a person 'getting round' the law. Oh how Polish
Very sad that again a person not abiding by the law gets lots of people killed.
Tragic yes, Driver killed in the crash, he got off too easy. Jesus Christ is YOU NEED ELECTRONIC BRAKES TO USE THIS ROAD too hard to understand?
National mourning Poles should be ashamed of their crap law breaking drivers, I am just pleased there were no innocent passers by killed, i feel sorrow for the pasengers and families.
The driver broke the law, simple. The roof was not checked, bribes were paid. same problem. The law is the law if you are Polish or not. Times have changed, poles shouldn't need to 'wangle, con, avoid rules, Ignore the law' any more.
National mourning or national embarassment?
OK Ania I'm listening
It is not only Poles?
Brits break the law too!
I thought the driver survived?
"and the Monsignor to bless it."
Where does the monsignor fit into Polish Catholicism? This sounds like it started life as a mexican joke.
Q: How many Polish-Americans does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A : None they prefer to screw in the sack.
"OK Ania I'm listening"
perfect example of british blame culture
Sorry it was not the driver's fault. Maybe he forgot that he didn't have the correct paperwork. Poor memory.
Dajwid nobody knows for sure what went wrong and the coach had passed safety checks in Germany 3 weeks before the trip.
The only positive thing that could come out of this is if they ensure it does not happen again and as there have been several accidents at the same spot, I am not surprised the locals are angry. In 1973 43 pilgrims were killed in a coach crash on the same road and 29 people died in 1976. The coach company should be called to account and stopped from trading if it is negligent. If a permit is needed then there should be check points at the entrance to the dangerous road. I find it very hard to believe Polish coaches had never travelled safely on this road before as it is the route to a famous shrine.
The way I see it apportioning blame when something like this has occurred does not change anything and will not bring the victims back to life or make this incident any less horrific. Some of the victims where trapped in the burning coach and were burned alive in front of locals powerless to help them. Can you imagine how terrible these locals must feel? They probably cannot sleep at night without seeing the faces of those dying in agony.
There are plenty of Monsignori in Poland - most bishops hold the title, but don't use the name.
I think our feelings must first of all be with the victims & their families. But "Britisn blame culture" (others might call it responsibility) might just prevent a reoccurance of such a tragedy.
And another same week
WARSAW, July 22, 2007 (AFP) - A coach bringing Russian tourists home from France crashed on Sunday in western Poland, injuring 23 passengers including five seriously, Russian diplomats here said.
"The bus had 47 people in board, 45 Russian tourists on their way back from the French seaside and two Belarussian drivers. Twenty-three were injured including five more seriously but their lives are not in danger," said Andrei Voskoboinikov from the Russian consulate in nearby Poznan.
The cause of the accident, which occurred near a motorway toll station near Poznan, was not immediately clear, police spokesman Romuald Piecuch said.
Regarding the french crash
The prefecture in Grenoble said Monday that the bus did not have a special permit allowing it to travel on the steep descent.
Following the accident, the Polish transport ministry ordered a detailed technical probe of all coaches used by Polish travel agencies, and said it would stiffen the rules for obtaining driving licences.
Have you seen the state of many of the PKS coaches?
What would happpen in all the unsafe ones were taken of the roads?
"There are plenty of Monsignori in Poland "
what is the translation? I have never heard the term used in the english Catholic church except from reading Grahame Green. I thought it was a Spanish word.
"Following the accident, the Polish transport ministry ordered a detailed technical probe of all coaches used by Polish travel agencies, and said it would stiffen the rules for obtaining driving licences."
Good. About time.
"Have you seen the state of many of the PKS coaches?
What would happpen in all the unsafe ones were taken of the roads"
Yes I have travelled on an ancient pks bus only two years ago. Was the coach dilapidated too?? Why did it pass safety checks?
The safety checks quoted were nothing. A routine roadside stop and check by police, that's all. The coach was registered in Poland, so safety checks are done there, not in any other country. A feeble excuse. In fact, a downright lie.
One sees the title used by the Catholic Church in the U.S. for senior priests who manage other priests; for example: the head master or principal of a catholic school will often be granted the title of Monsignor. Also; if there are several parishes under single direction as one would find with multiple Polish parishes in an archdiocese, the priest that oversees that grouping might be titled Monsignor.
The Polish church being more homogenious tend to use the title “Ksiądz Prałat”
I see a lot of coaches and small-town buses here that look like they've been bought from other countries, not that there's any excuse for not maintaining them properly.
The cost of coach journeys is often very cheap - I wonder if improved safety standards would increase that?
By the way, the exact meaning of Monsignor is that the holder of the title is an honorary Papal chaplain. It's just gived as a token of respect. Ksiądz Pralat is indeed more popular here, though many of them are also Monsignori - some wearing the red cincture that they're entitled to.
50 Zloty gets an MOT in Poland, you don't even need to take your car.
I know as I did it for years
Me too. Corruption is a vicious circle.
The only time I have heard Monsignor used in relation to Catholicism in the UK is in the book Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (character Monsignor Bell).
Isn't English Catholicism (remaining from pre henry VIII) different from Roman Catholicism? I thought they did not have a tie with Rome.