14 people dead after student foreign exchange coach with Britons onboard crashes in Spain
AT LEAST 14 people are dead after a coach which had Britons and foreign exchange students onboard crashed near the eastern Spanish city of Tarragona.
The coach was carrying Erasmus students from several different countries who had been attending the annual Las Fallas festival in Valencia.
The accident happened around 6am today as the vehicle - carrying around 60 passengers - collided with a car and overturned on the AP-7 motorway.
Students injured in the coach crash are believed to come from several countries - including Britain.
Local reports added that the injured, mostly aged between 22 and 29, were also from Switzerland, Norway, Turkey and Ukraine as well as from Barcelona.
The coach was heading to Barcelona from Valencia three hours south of the Catalan capital after students attended a fireworks display.
The crash happened near Freginals, a picturesque town around 60 miles south of Tarragona.
The coach crashed on a motorway after students had attended a fireworks display
Nearly 20 fire crews are said to be working at the scene to free casualties trapped inside.
Seven ambulance crews have also been sent to the area.
The motorway, which runs along the country’s east coast, has been partially shut.
Emergency services in the area tweeted: “Emergency plan in place for the coach crash with fatalities on the AP7 at Freginals.”
The coach involved in the accident belongs to a firm based in Mollet del Valles a half-drive north west of Barcelona.
The students travelling in the coach that crashed this morning near Tarragona are said to have been studying at Barcelona University.
Firemen work at the site of a coach crash
Josep Roncero, mayor of Freginals which is the nearest town to the scene of the crash, confirmed there were 14 dead.
The number of injured is said to be "high."
The coach is understood to have smashed through a motorway central reservation after colliding with a car.
Mr Roncero told a Catalan radio station: “The coach crash is a tragedy.
“At the moment there are 14 fatalities.
“Many Erasmus students were travelling in the vehicle.
“All the injured have now been transferred to different hotels in the area.”
Students involved in the crash had been returning from Barcelona
Responding to local reports the coach driver had lost control of the vehicle before smashing through the central reservation and overturning after a collision with another vehicle, he added: “The coach has crossed the central reservation and overturned. It’s the worst accident I can remember.”
Nuria Ventura, mayoress of nearby Ulldecona described the area where the crash happened as an accident blackspot.
The tragedy is one of the worst involving a coach in recent years in Spain.
Twenty-eight people, mostly teenagers, died in July 2000 when a coach and a lorry collided with each other near the northern city of Soria.
The Fallas, an annual festival in Valencia which the students were returning from, is held every March and attracts many foreign visitors as well as Spanish tourists.
The city of just over one million inhabitants swells as around two million revellers descend on the city.
The focus of the festival are huge cardboard, wood, papier-mache and plaster statues which are set alight.
Many poke fun at corrupt politicians and Spanish celebrities.
A hotel in Tortosa near the crash scene is understood to agreed to receive relatives of the victims.
Catalunya’s Interior Minister Jordi Jane travelled to the hotel this morning and was expected to make an official statement at the doors of the hotel.
The driver of the coach involved in this morning’s crash is said to be alive and is being treated in hospital for injuries which have not been revealed
Catalonia's Interior Minister Jordi Jane said in his first official comments on the tragic coach accident that he wasn’t yet ready to confirm the nationalities of the victims.
But he said: “They are from various countries. We are currently working on a list of the people and their nationalities.
“They were related groups and mostly Erasmus students studying at different universities who had organised this trip to Valencia.
“They were returning in the early hours when this tragic accident occurred."
Three of the injured are said to be “serious.”
Confirming the number of dead as 14, Mr Jane added: “I hope and prey the final death toll stays at this dramatic figure.”
Funeral workers put a stretcher bearing a body into a hearse after a traffic crash in Freginals.
He also said the coach driver was at a police station in Tortosa and confirmed 57 people were aboard the vehicle.
Thirty of the injured were being treated in hospital this morning. Most of the injuries are described as “non life-threatening."
Mr Jane, speaking at a hastily-arranged press conference, said: ”It appears 57 people including the driver were travelling in the coach.
“Of these 57 people, 14 have died and 43 people have survived together with two people from Catalunya travelling in the car involved in the accident who were travelling opposite direction towards Valencia.
Emergency officials work near Freginals, Amposta south of Tarragona.
Of the 43 survirors, 13 suffered minor injuries and 30 people were hospitalised with more serious injuries.
The coach that crashed was one of five coaches belonging to the same firm that were returning together from Valencia but had become separated from the convoy.
The drivers of the other four vehicles are believed to have been told about the accident only when they reached their final destination.
Most of the students are thought to be studying at Barcelona University, but this has not been confirmed.