Death toll rises to 5 kids in France train-bus crash

The Associated Press

Paris – French authorities said one more student died Friday after a regional train sliced open a school bus in southern France, raising the overall death toll to five children.

According to authorities in the Pyrenees-Orientales region, 18 other children and the bus driver were injured in the horrific crash at a crossing close to the Spanish border. At least nine of the victims, including the bus driver, have serious injuries.

Four children aged 12 or 13 died Thursday after the accident.

French authorities said all victims had been identified and their families notified.

The bus was carrying 23 students aged 11 to 15 from the Christian Bourquin school in the village of Millas, near Perpignan in southern France. The school opened its doors Friday to offer counseling for grieving students and families.

Investigators were still working to determine the cause of the crash.

Philippe Vignes, the Pyrenees-Orientales chief, said he could not say whether the railway barriers meant to stop vehicles from driving onto the tracks when a train is coming were open or closed.

“There are contradictory rumors,” he said. “We need to be very careful.”

Vignes said investigators would look into reports that the batteries in the automatic train gate system had been stolen.

National railway company SNCF said the train was carrying 25 people, including passengers and crew, and all were accounted for and being offered counseling. She said the train normally travels at 80 kph (50 mph) at that location.

French President Emmanuel Macron evoked the nation’s “sadness” and “solidarity” toward the victims’ families at a news conference Friday at a European Union summit in Brussels.