Last week was a black one for Belgium, but in which we saw a lot of solidarity and a certain unity of feeling in the Dutch, French and German speaking parts of the country.
Though every three seconds a child dies and annually in the USA only 8,000 children are injured in school bus crashes annually, this road accident called for much attention because so many died in one go.
Shortly after 9PM on Tuesday night a Belgian coach carrying school children from schools in Heverlee (Leuven) and Lommel (Limburg) had crashed in Sierre in the Swiss Alps. The entire front of the coach was destroyed as a result of the impact. Several victims were stuck in the wreckage. The front seats of the bus were all smashed against each other and there was blood everywhere.
22 youngsters aged 11 and 12 and hailed from the Sint-Lamberts School in Heverlee near Leuven (Flemish Brabant) and from the primary school ‘t Stekske in Lommel (Limburg) their live was ended suddenly after a week of a lot of fun at a skiing holiday in the resort of Saint Luc in Val d’Anniviers in the Swiss alps. 28 people were also seriously injured. The two drivers from Aarschot, teacher Raymond Theunis, 54, and youth leader Veerle Vanheukelom, 38, both of whom were from Lommel lost their lives with another two adults.
Under the victims was also the 11-year-old British boy Sebastian Bowles, a pupil at St Lambertus school in Heverlee, Belgium, had moved with his parents to the country from Crouch End, north London, two years ago. Sebastian’s father, Edward, a banker, and his mother, Ann, returned to Belgium from Switzerland on Thursday night.
The headteacher of Our Lady of Muswell, in north London, Teresa McBride, said: “Our school community is still reeling from the shock of this terrible accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sebastian’s family at this tragic time.
“He was a wonderfully vibrant boy who is so fondly remembered by pupils, staff and parents at Our Lady of Muswell. He was known by staff as ‘the little cherub’. He will be greatly missed.
The Federal Health Department confirmed the news that Swiss doctors had given the green light for the injured child’s return early on Saturday. The girl has been treated for her injuries in a hospital in the Swiss capital Bern.
She will be transferred to the Gasthuisberg Hospital in Leuven where another 14 children are currently being treated for injuries they sustained in the crash.
While the injured children from Heverlee are close to home, the Leuven hospital is still a long way from the Limburg town of Lommel where a number of the injured children come from.
The authorities will look into the possibility of transferring the Lommel children to hospital closer to home.
Six children were already able to return to their homes in Belgium with their parents on Thursday evening.
The bodies of the 6 adults and 22 children that died in Tuesday evening’s accident were repatriated to Belgium on Friday. They are now awaiting their final resting place in their respective home towns of Lommel (Limburg), Aarschot and Heverlee (both Flemish Brabant).
For the parents of the children aged 11 and 12it must have been terrible moments, and the waiting for news of their children must have been horrible. for those who had only one child their family is totally broken and left with an empty space never to be replaced again.
The previous days and this weekend we took the time to pray for the sorely tried, but also looked at the many other children who die every three seconds and who never get such attention as those who died in this tragic car accident.
Friday was a national day of mourning.
At 11am local time in Belgium, children, politicians and workers marked the minute’s silence. Travellers at bus, underground and railway stations were asked to pause until church bells sounded the end of the moment of remembrance. In Brussels, government officials and politicians gathered outside buildings.
At the European commission headquarters, flags were flying at half-mast and a number of commercial television stations halted transmissions for much longer than a minute, cancelling some programmes altogether.
At St Lambertus school, children who gathered in the playground for the minute’s silence were handed white balloons to release.
Staffan Nilsson, President and Martin Westlake, Secretary General on behalf of the European Economic and Social Committee offered their heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the persons so tragically killed. Tey said: “We are bereaved and mourning together with the 11 million citizens of Belgium in particular and 500 million Europeans in general.”
Pope Benedict XVIassociated himself also in prayer with the suffering of the mourning families, entrusting the victims to the mercy of God and asking Him to welcome them into His light.
We do know that people when they die become at their end of their life. According to the Bible then it is finished and the body becomes dust again, while the victim cannot feel, see or do anything, because it knows nothing any more, because life has left the body and there is nothing more to go out of it or to continue a certain afterlife. It may seem hard but we should see this gives more comfort and makes it less hard to continue living for the others. Because they know there is no more suffering for the child any more, not having to be conscious of the anger and sorrow of those who are still alive.
Though our profound sympathy goes to the injured and their families we do hope they shall be able to find some light in the dark and that this moment of grieve can strengthen them to continue this life, keeping in their mind the pictures of the beautiful moments they had with their children.They should nourish those warm nice moments they had together and get together their strength to tackle the daily life in remembrance of their daughter or boy.
We do pray that they can find reasons for all the things that happened in the short life of the child, and that they may find the hope in the promise God has given us, that one day it shall be possible again to meet each other again. We all should look out for that time, which can come soon, that Jesus shall resurrect all the dead to give them allowance to enter the Kingdom of God.
Let us take every sad moment to learn from and to grow, preparing ourselves to be ready to enter the promise of a future life, without pain or any suffering.
In Lommel on the Dutch border, where several of the children went to a local primary school, a memorial service is to be held next Wednesday.
The Belgian royal family and the Queen of the Netherlands are due to attend: six of the dead children were Dutch.
Dutch version / Nederlandse versie: Jongeren gedragen in de harten van vele Belgen
Accident in pictures: Busongeval in beeld
Condoleances: Lommel Steunbetuiging
Facebook funeral parlour: Facebook Rouwpagina
- Swiss coach crash kills dozens, most of them schoolchildren – The Guardian (guardian.co.uk)
Two small Belgian towns are in mourning after a bus crash in the Swiss Alps left at least 22 schoolchildren dead.
- Swiss coach crash: London school pays tribute to British victim (guardian.co.uk)
- ‘No alcohol’ in Switzerland coach crash driver – autopsy – BBC News (bbc.co.uk)
- At least 28 killed in Swiss Alps bus crash: WSJ (marketwatch.com)
- School bus horror: 22 kids and six adults killed in Swiss Alps ski trip coach crash (mirror.co.uk)
- Twenty-eight killed in Swiss bus crash (oyiabrown.wordpress.com)
The head of the Cantonal police Christian Varone described the crash as “unprecedented”.
- Belgium coach crash in Switzerland tunnel kills 28 (mygreekbooking.wordpress.com)
More than 200 people and eight helicopters were involved in the rescue operation.Swiss journalist Ruth Seeholzer told the BBC that the two-lane tunnel was not busy with traffic when the accident happened and driving conditions were normal.
- (Switzerland)Belgian coach crash in Swiss tunnel (leggotunglei808.wordpress.com)
- 22 schoolchildren among dead in Swiss bus crash (ctv.ca)
- 28 people, including 22 children, die in Swiss bus accident (theprovince.com)
- 28 people, including 22 children, die in Swiss bus accident (calgaryherald.com)
- Swiss bus crash leaves 28 dead (cbc.ca)
- Schoolchildren among 28 dead in Swiss bus crash – CTV.ca (ctv.ca)
- Switzerland coach crash: ‘we should all pause for thought’ – euronews (euronews.com)
It was Belgium’s first National Day of Mourning for eight years.At EU institutions in Brussels, in workplaces, train stations and elsewhere around the country, people came together to remember the victims of the school bus crash in Switzerland.
- Over 20 Belgian children die in Swiss bus crash (foxnews.com)
- Bus crash kills 28 on Swiss ski holiday – CBS News (cbsnews.com)
- Mystery deepens over Swiss bus crash (smh.com.au)
+ ‘This was worse than anything you can imagine’: 28 dead in school bus crash
- Blog chronicles joy of Belgian kids before crash (sacbee.com)
A torch-light march. Ravioli and meatball dinners. Rides in a funicular railway. A sing-a-long and a dress-up casino evening.Those were some of the things that made last week “mega-cool” for 24 sixth graders at the St. Lambertus school in a hotel in Saint-Luc, high in the Swiss Alps.