Five British students die in Spanish hire car

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The Independent Online
A GROUP of five students who days ago celebrated their graduation from university were killed in a head-on collision in Spain.

The two men and three women, aged 21 to 24, died instantly when their hire car and a lorry collided on a coastal road near Valencia on Sunday in torrential rain.

The party, who had gone on holiday together after completing their degrees at London University King's College, was travelling behind another group of five friends as they returned to their Benidorm apartment after a day out.

Professor Arthur Lucas, principal of the college, said that staff who taught the students, were devastated by the news. "The college is shocked and deeply stunned by the deaths of five of its young graduates who had just received their degrees.

"They were all hard-working and very promising students who were a great contributing presence to their departments.

"They have been killed senselessly just as they were about to start out on their lives and careers."

The five science students had all received second class honours BSc degrees.

They were named as Samuel Ota Imaga, 23, who had read micro biochemistry; Vivian Obiajulu Egesi, 21, a biochemistry student who was also the president of the student union's Afro Caribbean Society; Ian Boatswain, 21, who studied biosciences; Jaimini Kara, 21, and Falilat Oluremilekun Dawodu, 24, who had both read biochemistry.

All were from the London and Kent area. Their friends gave statements yesterday to Gandia District Court near the village of Oliva and are due to return home later. They were not injured but were in shock, a Guardia Civil spokesman said.

It was still too early to establish the speeds of both the car and lorry involved in the collision, said the officer. The bodies of the five were taken to the San Francisco de Barja Hospital in Gandia where post mortem examinations were expected to be held yesterday.

The accident happened during Spain's busiest holiday weekend which, according to one report, saw 50 people die in road accidents across the country. It was reportedly the worst crash of the weekend's mayhem. Rescue teams took two hours to cut the bodies from the wreckage.

Road safety experts warned tourists unfamiliar with the roads to take extra care.

"Driving abroad for Britons requires 100 per cent concentration," said an AA spokeswoman. "People have to be even more careful than they would be at home. When abroad, British motorists are often driving on a different side of the road and sometimes in bad weather."

Popular tourist destinations such as Spain and France have twice as many fatal road accidents as Britain. The Spanish death rate is 14 per 100,000 people compared with the UK rate of 6.4 per 100,000. Portugal has the worst rate in Europe at 28.9 deaths per 100,000 people.

Although these casualties occur over 12 months, the summer months often see carnage on Europe's carriageways. Spain's highway department reported that 36 had been killed over the weekend. Another 49 were injured, 29 critically.

Many Spanish factories and stores shut down in August,when temperatures in Madrid often reach 40C. On the first weekend of the month, millions of people head for the mountains or the beaches.

The worst traffic jam came on Saturday morning when Madrid residents headed south-east to the Valencia beaches. The drive normally takes about three hours, but on Saturday it took motorists six, as a 30-mile tailback formed outside Madrid.

Hire car holidays have become increasingly popular with British tourists, a spokesman for Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said.

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