VENICE: Italian authorities today were investigating what caused a horrific bus crash near Venice yesterday, in which 21 people including several children died, and 15 were injured.
The electric bus, carrying foreign tourists returning from a day trip to Venice, crashed through the guardrail and off an overpass late yesterday in the Mestre district, slamming into the ground more than 10m below and catching fire.
The accident happened shortly before 8pm local time on a straight and normally very busy road that connects Mestre to the historic centre of Venice.
Italian news agencies said that the dead included four or five Ukrainians, a German tourist, and an Italian driver. ANSA, quoting emergency services, said a baby and a 12-year-old were killed.
Adnkronos, another news agency, said Germans, French, Croatians, Spaniards, and Austrians were among the injured.
“We presume the driver may have fallen ill,” Veneto regional president Luca Zaia told the RTL 102.5 radio station, adding that witnesses’ accounts and CCTV footage might give additional clues.
“At the moment we are not able to make a precise reconstruction of events,” Venice’s chief prosecutor Bruno Cerchi told reporters overnight.
The wreckage of the bus, an electric vehicle that was about a year old, was cleared at dawn, and was still being monitored for fire risks from its batteries, firefighters said.
Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni and politicians across Europe expressed their condolences.
“Our thoughts this evening are with the Italian people, the families, and loved ones of the victims of the terrible tragedy in Venice”, French president Emmanuel Macron wrote on X yesterday.
The head of the company that operated the bus, Massimo Fiorese, told the Corriere della Sera newspaper he had seen video footage of the moments before the accident.
It showed the single-decker bus slowing down and appearing “almost stationary” when it crashes through the guardrail and falls down, he said.
“I think the driver had an illness, because otherwise I can’t explain it,” Fiorese said, adding the driver had started his shift less than two hours before the crash.
Footage of the accident site showed that the overpass was equipped with an old, relatively thin metal guardrail, rather than newer, sturdier concrete versions.