BELGIUM: Bishops console grieving relatives of children killed in fatal Swiss mountain bus crashRecord ID: 382775
- Title: BELGIUM: Bishops console grieving relatives of children killed in fatal Swiss mountain bus crash
- Date: 15th March 2012
- Summary: CHILDREN AND TEACHERS PLAYING IN SCHOOL YARD
- Reuters ID: LVADD4TGYJWX1QUARHJASA7TQO15
- Location: Belgium, Belgium
- Country: Belgium
- Duration: 00:00:07
- Topics: Accidents
- Story Text: Bishops rushed to two Belgian schools on Wednesday (March 14) to console grieving parents who lost their children in a mountain bus crash in Switzerland that killed 28 people.
The bus, transporting 52 people, mostly children aged about 12 from the towns of Lommel and Heverlee in Belgium's Dutch-speaking Flanders region, crashed in the Swiss canton of Valais at 9:15 p.m.(2015 GMT) on Tuesday.
Many parents who arrived at the two schools, the St Lambertus Primary School in Heverlee and the school 't Stekske in Lommel, are desperate to find out if their children were among the alive.
Patrick Hoogmartens, bishop of Hassalt, rushed to the school 't Stekske to offer spiritual help at a time of despair.
"None of the parents know what has happened exactly, if their child has been affected or not. They are going there with just hope," said Hoogmartens.
"It is a small community, and people are intensely compassionate with each other. They were ready to receive the youngsters this morning and now they heard the news that they will not come back, and nobody knows well what happened. The parents are feeling powerless, especially as they don't know exactly what happened to their child, there are a lot of uncertainties," he added.
The parents will be flown by Belgian military plane to Switzerland, accompanied by psychologists.
At the St Lambertus school in Heverlee, a suburb of Leuven, 24 pupils were on the ski trip, a popular annual event. A teacher and a trip organiser were killed in the crash along with eight children from this school.
Police officers stood discreetly by the gates of the school, receiving distraught parents and well-wishers.
Andre-Joseph Leonard, bishop of Mechelen, also came to the school in his region to help.
"I spoke to the parents and it's mainly important to be there. There are no words for this, " he said.
Many of Heverlee's residents work in nearby industries, including AB InBev, the world's largest brewing company, which is based in Leuven.
Most of the children killed were in the last year of primary school. For many, it will have been the first holiday abroad without their parents.
Police said the bus had just joined the highway towards the Swiss town of Sierre after coming down from the resort. After travelling 2 km (1.2 miles) on the road, the bus bumped into the curb and skidded into an emergency siding in the tunnel. A police photograph showed the bus rammed up against the side of a tunnel, the front ripped open, broken glass and debris strewn on the road and rescue workers climbing in through side windows.
The mayor of Leuven, Louis Tobback, expressed sympathy with grieving parents in Lommel.
"I have no words to express my compassion with my colleagues from Lommel who are probably facing an even more disastrous situation. Everything seems to show that the ones from Heverlee by chance were luckily sitting at the back of the bus and so we probably have fewer victims in Heverlee than in Lommel. If that can be of any comfort, of course not, so we have a lot of compassion with the people in Lommel," said Tobback.
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