A tour bus carrying 46 passengers and two drivers collided with a tractor-trailer and burst into flames in southeast Germany early Monday morning. The fatal German bus crash was reported at around 7:00 a.m. local time on the A9 highway near Stammbach.
At least 18 people were killed in the tour bus accident. Thirty others sustained injuries, including two people who are clinging to life in an area hospital. The bus driver was among the deceased. The co-driver survived with serious injuries.
If the death toll is confirmed, Monday morning’s bus crash will rank as one of the worst ever in Germany.
The bus was reportedly carrying a group of German senior citizens between the ages of 66 and 81 who were on their way to vacation in Lake Garda, Italy. The bus made a series of stops to pick up passengers around Saxony and Brandenburg earlier Monday morning.
Cause of German Bus Crash Fire Remains Under Investigation
According to the BBC, the cause of the fire is currently unknown. Traffic on the A9 was moving slowly at the time of the accident, and the impact between the tractor-trailer and the tour bus was not considered major. Weather and visibility do not appear to be a factor.
In an interview with law enforcement, the tractor-trailer driver said the bus rear-ended his vehicle, causing the trailer section to catch fire. He said the trailer was filled with mattresses and pillows, per media reports. The truck driver did not sustain injuries in the accident.
The newspaper Bild quoted an insurance expert in its reporting of the German bus crash. The expert cited fire damage to the back of the tour bus as evidence that the vehicle may have already been on fire when the collision occurred.
Emergency responders arrived at the scene 10 minutes after the collision but were driven back by the intensity of the fire, which engulfed both the bus and the trailer section of the truck. “After we got there, nobody else got off the bus,” a local firefighter told the media following the incident.
As many as 200 firefighters and paramedics responded to the accident and five helicopters arrived at the scene to transport those most in need of medical attention to nearby hospitals. Others with less severe injuries were treated at the scene of the crash.
The remains of the deceased were placed in simple wooden coffins and taken off-site. A team is currently working to identify those who perished.
German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said the heat from the fire “must have been intense” because there was nothing flammable left on the bus. “Only steel parts are recognizable, so you can understand what that meant for the people in this bus,” Dobrindt said.
Officials are investigating the potential causes of the bus crash as well as the fire. The results of the investigation may impact tour and charter bus safety regulations.