BELGIUM: Residents wake up in shock following Swiss bus crash that killed 28 people, including 24 Belgian schoolchildrenRecord ID: 382809
- Title: BELGIUM: Residents wake up in shock following Swiss bus crash that killed 28 people, including 24 Belgian schoolchildren
- Date: 16th March 2012
- Summary: CRYING MOTHER WITH SON LOOKING AT DRAWINGS GRIEVING PARENTS SUPPORTING EACH OTHER
- Reuters ID: LVAD4N8H6TZZ09OEPU0Z8X91EUC4
- Location: Belgium, Belgium
- Country: Belgium
- Duration: 00:00:10
- Topics: Accidents
- Story Text: Grieving parents and children arrived at the primary school 't Stekske in Lommel, in Flanders, the northern, Dutch-speaking region of Belgium on Thursday (March 15), to place flowers and drawings at the entrance in memory of their classmates and loved ones who died in a bus crash in Switzerland.
The bus, carrying 52 people, hit the side of a tunnel on the way back from a school ski trip and slammed into a wall, crushing the front third of the vehicle.
Six of the 28 dead were adults and the rest children, most of them 11 or 12 years old.
Fifteen of the pupils from the primary school 't Stekske in Lommel died in the crash, 7 of them were from the Netherlands.
Twenty-four pupils from the St Lambertus school in the Leuven suburb of Heverlee were on the ski trip, a popular annual event. A teacher and a trip organizer were killed in the crash along with seven local children.
The remainder of those killed and injured were from Heverlee.
At the school gates, teachers posted dozens of pictures drawn by pupils during class on Wednesday honouring the dead.
Some depicted hearts, rainbows and tulips, others were drawings of their classmates and of the teacher, Mr Frank, who died in the accident.
Police stood by the school as parents arrived with their children and well-wishers placed flowers at the entrance of the school.
Classes at both schools resumed with special programs focused on explaining to the children what had happened to their classmates.
"It is very important for children that the daily routine continues, they need a stable frame as their reference, to survive, that way it is easier to give their emotions a place," school pastor Dirk De Gendt of the Catholic school Sint Lambertus in Heverlee said.
Parents understood the hard job facing the teachers of trying to help the pupils cope with the tragedy.
"The teacher will try to tell or maybe better explain to kids what's happened, so I think it is of course very though, very hard, and..," one mother said after dropping of her child at school.
Flags around Brussels were lowered to half-mast on Thursday and all regional newspapers featured the drama on their front pages.
People said the sadness of the tragedy left them speechless.
One woman told Reuters that thinking of her own children, who are the same age as many of the children who lost their lives, makes the story much more heartbreaking.
"It's very miserable. Miserable. Honestly, it's... I can't explain it. I have children myself of that age, and it's very sad. It's really sad," she said.
About 100 family members, who flew to Geneva from Belgium, were taken by buses to the Valais canton where the bus crashed. Some began visiting injured children in Sion hospital, while others were being counselled by psychologists in crisis groups.
A mortuary was set up and bodies were being identified.
Swiss authorities said it was the worst accident in Switzerland since 1982, when 39 German tourists were killed on a railway crossing after a train hit their bus.
Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo announced on Wednesday that a national day of mourning for the victims will take place in the near future.
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