Spain Bus Crash Kills 13 University Exchange Students; 34 Others Injured

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A bus carrying university exchange students back from Spain’s largest fireworks festival crashed Sunday on a main highway in the northeast, killing at least 13 passengers and injuring 34 others, officials said.

The passengers included Spaniards and foreign nationals from around 20 countries, authorities said.

The bus, which was carrying 57 passengers, appeared to have hit a guardrail of the AP7 highway before cartwheeling across the road, slamming through a divider and landing on its side, said Jordi Jane, spokesman for Spain’s northeastern Catalonia province.

The students, part of the Erasmus exchange program, had traveled to the eastern city of Valencia to take part in the renowned Fallas fireworks festival and were returning when the bus crashed, Jane said. Most were studying at two universities in Barcelona.

The crash took place near Freginals, halfway between Valencia and Barcelona.

Initially, Jane said 14 had died in the crash, but Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz later confirmed the death toll was 13. He said 28 passengers received medical treatment in local hospitals and others received first aid at the crash site.

The regional government of Catalonia said in a statement in the early evening that “according to the latest data, the ill-fated bus had students from Hungary, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Italy, Peru, Bulgaria, Poland, Ireland, Japan, Ukraine, Holland, Belgium, France, Palestine, Turkey, Greece.”

It added that two countries — New Zealand and Finland — were still pending confirmation.

The statement said autopsies had been completed on nine of the 13 dead and a judge would release the bodies to families once full identification was complete in all cases.

Italy’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that Italian citizens were among the dead, but did not say how many. But the Italian news agency ANSA, reporting from Madrid, said as many as seven Italians died in the crash.

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SOURCE: AJC; The Associated Press, Harold Heckle