At least 13 people were killed and 34 injured in a bus accident in the early hours of Sunday on the AP7 motorway in the Tarragona and Terres de l’Ebre region of southern Catalonia, near the town of Freginals. The tragic bus accident took place just before 6 a.m. at Km. 333 of the AP-7 motorway at Freginals.
The President of the Catalan Government, Carles Puigdemont, immediately went to the nearby town of Tortosa where he expressed his “sympathy and shock” for the accident victims. The President decreed two days of mourning and he cancelled an official trip to Paris that was scheduled to begin Sunday afternoon.
The President, in his name and that of his government, offered a message of condolence to “all the families who are suffering because they have a family member who was affected by this accident,” as well as offering “support and affection” for all the injured, who are being cared for in nearby hospitals, that he will visit to check on their progress. “Our priority is to take care of the injured and to receive as it befits them all the distressed family members who are arriving to learn what has happened to their loved ones,” he stated.
Regarding the cause of the accident, the President explained that “We are gathering all the information and documentation that we need to learn what happened to cause this accident, and to determine whether there was a mechanical failure or a human error involved.” President Puidemont said he was grateful for the calls of support he had received from the President of the Valencia Government, Ximo Puig, as well as the President of the University of Barcelona where the Erasmus exchange programme students on the bus were studying.
The Catalan Interior Minister Jordi Jané explained that there were 57 passengers on the bus. The minister explained that the passengers were students at Catalan universities, that the students were from a variety of nationalities, and that the majority of the students were part of an Erasmus exchange programme. Jané said that this group of students had organized a Saturday trip to Valencia to see the “Fallas” and they were returning to Barcelona early Sunday morning.
Jané said that the causes of the accident would be studied. The Interior Minister advised that the students had travelled in a total of five buses, four of which four had arrived safely Sunday morning. The Minister was upset by the news, and thanked the emergency services who had been working since the early hours of the morning, “the firemen, the Catalan police (Mossos d’Esquadra), the volunteers from Civil Protection, the Red Cross, and all those who rushed to the site the moment they learned of the accident.”
The Civil Protection department of the Generalitat, together with local government authorities, have prepared a reception area at the Corona d’Aragó Hotel in Tortosa for all the injured passengers, which offers counselling services for all those affected. The Civil Protection Department’s Operative Coordination Centre of Catalonia, CECAT, sent professionals from the Red Cross of Catalonia as well as social workers to the reception centre.
The 34 injured victims of the accident are being treated at hospitals in Tortosa, Reus, Amposta, Tarragona and Vinaròs. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Institutional Relations and Transparency, Raul Romeva, contacted the Barcelona consulates of Hungary, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Czech Republic, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Italy, Peru, Bulgaria, Poland, Ireland, Palestine, Japan and Ukraine.
31 units of the Catalan police (Mossos d’Esquadra) were sent to the scene (mainly units from the transit, security, citizen services and scientific specialties). 17 units of the Generalitat’s Firemen are also at the scene. They have sent their Psychological Assistance Unit to provide help to the injured and to accompany the victims’ families.
The Catalan Ministry of Justice has sent a forensic team of 17 from Terres de l’Ebre, Tarragona and Barcelona. This team, coordinated on the ground by the Director of the Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine are in charge of identifying the remains of the accident victims. Two of the team members are forensic dental specialists with experience in catastrophes. Autopsies will take place at the Tortosa-Jesus Morgue. The coroners have been working throughout Sunday to identify the victims while awaiting the arrival of the victims’ families.