At least 16 students of Budapest’s Szinyei Merse Pál Gimnázium died Friday night near Verona, Italy, when their bus collided into a column and caught fire. Another 39 students were injured and transported to hospital–12 of whom are believed to be in serious condition. This is the deadliest Hungarian bus crash in 18 years–the last time Hungarians mourned such a tragedy was in 1999, when 18 children were killed in a similar accident in Austria.
On Saturday, teachers, friends and parents associated with the high school in Budapest lit votive candles and left flowers outside the gimnázium’s entrance. School representatives also read out the names of those among the approximately 54 people on the bus who are alive. The 444.hu website reported that the school’s gym teacher was on the bus and returned multiple times into the burning vehicle, in order to help bring out injured students. The gym teacher remains in hospital after suffering severe burns, but there is no information on whether his wife and two children survived, as their names were not included on the list of the living read out at the Budapest high school.
Some 12 students are believed to have escaped from the burning bus without suffering serious injuries and they have been provided accommodation, as well as counselling services at a local hotel near Verona.
Family and friends of the injured students are still experiencing a great deal of uncertainty as to the fate of their loved ones, as many of the bodies found in the bus are so badly burned, that DNA testing must be completed to determine the identity of the deceased.
Foreign Affairs Minister Péter Szijjártó confirmed Saturday morning that the Hungarian state would cover the travel costs of parents of injured or deceased children travelling to Italy, as well as the transport home of the bodies of victims. Mr. Szijjártó expressed the condolences of the Hungarian government, while Prime Minister Viktor Orbán posted the following message to Facebook: “In these incomprehensible moments of grief, I hold the families and friends impacted by this tragedy in prayer.”
A black flag signifying mourning now flies above the entrance of the Budapest high school.
HFP’s thoughts are with all those grieving this weekend following this tragedy and we hope for a complete recovery for those being treated in hospital.