Nineteen dead, 34 injured in horrific bus crash

Nineteen people were killed and 34 injured on Saturday evening when a coach filled with skiers returning from the Austrian Alps crashed near the southern town of Ceske Budejovice. Police are still searching for clues as to what caused the horrific accident, one of the worst in the country's history. Rob Cameron reports.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK Police in South Bohemia received an emergency call shortly after twenty past eight on Saturday evening, saying there had been a serious accident on the E55 highway near the Czech-Austrian border. What they found there was a scene of carnage and destruction - a double-decker coach, with its roof completely ripped off, lying on its side in a gully. Strewn in and around the wreckage of the bus were the bodies of 17 people: another 36 passengers were seriously injured. Two died shortly afterwards in hospital, several are still in intensive care.

What caused Saturday's accident - the worst in decades - is now the subject of a police investigation. Eyewitnesses say the bus suddenly veered across the road, crashed through the barrier and overturned, rolling seven metres down a grassy slope. Police are so far investigating three possibilities: the driver either fell asleep at the wheel, or swerved to avoid a wild animal, or something was wrong with the bus itself. Both drivers survived the accident, and are being questioned by police.

Police say the stretch of road - near the village of Nazidla - has already claimed several lives, and are considering whether to introduce new speed limits. Others say there are too many "accident blackspots" in the country, and the problem needs national attention. The police themselves have long complained about bad driving habits, and particularly excessive speed: a combination which has earned the Czech Republic the unenviable reputation of having some of the worst road death statistics in Europe.