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toreador
Sep 28th, 2004, 11:55 PM
7 schoolchildren killed in crash

Speeding truck smashes into school coach on notoriously dangerous stretch of Greece’s national highway

http://www.ekathimerini.com/kathnews/photos/28-09-04/28-09-04_47774_1.gif

AP

A fireman looks on as thewrecked coach carrying 37 schoolchildrento attendParalympic events in Athens is raised upright. The bus driver, 21-year-oldDimitris Peslis, was forbiddenby law fromdriving thevehicle more than 50 kilometers away from his home base of Trikala, dueto his lack ofexperience. Both Peslis and trucker Antonis Pardalakis, 60, were arrested.

Seven teenagers from central Greece on a school trip to Athens for the last day of the Paralympic Games were killed yesterday morning when a speeding truck smashed into their coach on a notorious stretch of the main highway linking northern and southern Greece.

Twenty-six of the 37 15- and 16-year-olds on the bus and all four teachers from the Farkadona senior high school near Trikala were injured in the crash on a coastal bend near Asproneri, 173 kilometers (107 miles) northwest of Athens. Three of the schoolchildren who were more seriously hurt - a boy whose left hand was severed and two girls who suffered head injuries - were hospitalized, out of danger, in Athens and Larissa.

Both drivers survived without a scratch, and were arrested.

Traffic police said the accident occurred at 9.40 a.m. when the southbound bus - the second in a convoy of three specially chartered long-distance coaches - was hit by an oncoming truck and trailer carrying a load of glass panels to Thessaloniki.

According to initial reports - with a traffic police investigation pending - truckdriver Antonis Pardalakis, 60, was traveling at 95 kilometers per hour, nearly double the 50kph speed limit, when he lost control on the bend and slewed into the opposite lane. The first coach just managed to avoid the truck's trailer, which struck the second bus driven by Dimitris Peslis, 21, and knocked it over.

At that point of the national highway, there is only one lane on either side with no central barrier.

«The truck appeared to be going far too fast,» eyewitness Michalis Kapsalas, who saw the accident from his shop a few dozen meters from the scene of the crash, told Kathimerini. «It was all over in seconds. There was wreckage, blood and screams all over the place. Then the fire brigade came and started to take out the children.»

Kapsalas said another two minor accidents occurred in the same area just before and just after the crash.

«Not a single day passes without something serious happening here. For years, officials have been promising to take action, and for years we have been mourning victims.»

Local fire brigade chief Athanassios Kontokostas said 65 firemen from Lamia, Kamena Vourla and Aghios Constantinos rushed to the scene, together with 16 ambulances from Athens, Lamia and Halkida. «We immediately started to extract the children, cutting through twisted metal where necessary and offering first aid to the injured. We had finished in 30 minutes. The seven victims were in the back of the coach, which absorbed most of the force of the crash,» he said.

The victims were identified as Christos Bourazelis, Katerina Litsiou, Stefania Kalyva, Costas Tellios, Evgenia Sarafi, Apostolos Economopoulos and Yiannis Kamatselos.

Experts told Kathimerini that the glass panels appeared to have been badly loaded onto the truck. A Lamia prosecutor ordered the arrest of the Cretan glass company official who was responsible for the loading.

The government expressed deep sorrow at the accident, and promised a speedy investigation. The health, education and public order ministers visited the site of the crash.

President Costis Stephanopoulos wrote to the mayor of Farkadona to convey «the sorrow of all Greeks, including myself,» to the families of the victims.

All the country's schools will be closed tomorrow in mourning for the accident, the Education Ministry said.

'New road by late 2007'

Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias hosted a press conference shortly after the bus accident yesterday, promising to push ahead with construction of a new highway in the area that will replace the narrow road between Kammena Vourla and Aghios Constantinos, where the accident occurred.

He conceded that the project was long overdue, but avoided going into the details of why that was the case.

«Unfortunately, between 80 and 100 people are killed every year, and twice as many injured in the area,» Souflias said. «As soon as possible, this stretch of the road must be turned into a properly functioning, modern highway.»

The minister promised that the new road would be delivered «by October 2007, at the latest.»

He added, however, that the road was in good condition, with a clearly signposted speed limit of 50 kilometers per hour.

:sad:

toreador
Sep 28th, 2004, 11:58 PM
Emotions Run High in Closing Ceremony

From Graham Wood, PA Sport, Athens

Paralympics chief Phil Craven tonight dedicated the Athens Paralympics to the seven schoolchildren who died in a road accident en route to watch the Games action as Greece bade a fond farewell to a glorious summer of sport.

Craven, the president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), made the honourable gesture in his speech during a low-key yet celebratory and often moving closing ceremony as the curtain was brought down on the Games after 11 days of competition.

Unlike the opening ceremony of the Paralympics and both Olympic ceremonies, the stadium was not quite full, which was perhaps due to the fact organisers cut down the entertainment part of the show as a mark of respect for the high school students who died while on their way to watch the Games.

Craven said: “Tonight should have been a night for celebration. Millions of people around the world have experienced 11 days of exceptional Paralympic sport.

“The children of Greece especially have learned first hand the meaning of ’Paralympic Spirit’... they are messengers of a better world.

“This simple truth magnifies the tragedy that has befallen their families and friends.

“Tonight we mourn their loss and dedicate, to these young people, the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.”

The tragic story of the bus crash, involving a head-on collision with a truck near the city of Lamia, dominated the front pages of most national newspapers this morning as Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis announced a series of new measures to tackle the country’s poor road safety record.

As attention turned to the Olympic Stadium, flags were flown at half-mast in the stadium and a minute’s silence was observed before the ceremony began with music by an orchestra from the city of Patras.

The orchestra played out the famous Syrtaki song from the film Zorba the Greek as the athletes entered the stadium from six pathways into the centre of the infield.

In contrast to the formal entrance of the opening ceremony, the athletes poured into the stadium as a collective, rather than following behind their respective national flags.

One of the highlights as the athletes milled around was a Chinese leg-amputee who proceeded to entertain his team-mates by throwing down his crutches and walking on his hands before breakdancing.

After the speeches, Craven officially closed the Games and Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyanni handed over the IPC flag to her opposite number from Beijing, the 2008 hosts.

All that was left was the task of extinguishing the flame, and before that took place, a procession of performers carrying paper lamps made their way to the middle of the stadium to join the athletes.

After a 10-second countdown, the Paralympic flame went out on the 12th edition of these Games, and the climax of Greece’s spectacular sporting summer was over.

Following the country’s surprise footballing triumph at Euro 2004, the Greek ministry for tourism quickly made their motto ‘2004 – The Year of Greece’.

With an unforgettable Olympic homecoming and an historic first hosting of the Paralympics, few would argue that this summer belonged largely to Greece.

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401 people have lost their lives at that part of the road in the last 14 years

Rocketta
Sep 29th, 2004, 12:56 AM
Gee whiz that is a dangerous road.....apparently not only is the driver at fault but the officials who did nothing about that dangerous stretch as well. :mad:

So these kids were paralyzed? That's rough....They didn't even have the ability to get out of the bus if they survived. :sad:

elena_k
Sep 29th, 2004, 07:55 AM
Oh,sleepy head this is a tragedy!Since I've heard it I'm devastated.well,it's so bad to see every year accidents like that and we do nothing to avoid(especially since the accident at Temph last year).Lets hope we won't have same kind of accident again involving chilren.

toreador
Sep 30th, 2004, 07:02 PM
Rocketta 3 of the children are hospitalized, one of them lost his left arm and is in critical condition.
elena_k you know we'll see more accidents like that cos nothing ever happends here.