Spain bus crash: At least one Briton and four Irish nationals on board coach which crashed killing 13 women

Spanish officials say the bus was carrying more than 50 female Erasmus students when it slammed into the central reservation

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The Independent Online

At least one Briton is thought to have been on board a bus which crashed in Spain, killing 13 exchange students.

The bus, which was carrying 57 passengers, including at least one from the UK and four from Ireland, had been travelling back from Spain’s largest fireworks festival. It hit a crash barrier and was sent into oncoming traffic on a main road near Freginals, halfway between Valencia and Barcelona shortly before 6am.

Spanish interior minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz confirmed 13 students in their twenties had died and 28 injured passengers had been treated in hospital. He said the crash appeared to have been caused by an “undetermined human error”, rather than mechanical failure. The driver, who had never been involved in an accident in 17 years in the job and who passed alcohol and drugs tests at the scene of the accident, was being held by police last night.

University College Cork confirmed three of its students had been on the bus. One suffered “minor injuries” but the others were unhurt. Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade later said two Irish students were injured in the crash.

Firemen work at the site of a coach crash that has left at least 14 students dead at the AP-7 motorway in Freginals, in the province of Tarragona, northeastern Spain (EPA)

Tallulah Lyons, a student from the UK who was on the bus, suffered fractured vertebrae in the crash.

“I just remember waking up and people were on the floor,” she told the BBC. “I was trying to crawl out with friends - and that's when we realised some people were trapped. It took about two hours to get everyone out.”

Jordi Jane, a spokesman for Catalonia province, said the students were part of the Erasmus overseas exchange programme, and had travelled to Valencia to take part in the renowned "Fallas" fireworks festival.

They were returning to Barcelona when the bus crashed near Freginals, halfway between Valencia and Barcelona, he said earlier as emergency rescue workers were still working to clear the wreckage.

Emergency services personnel stand at the scene of a bus accident (AP)

Mr Jane said initial investigations appeared to show the bus had hit the right-hand side barriers of the highway before cartwheeling across the road and slamming into the central fence.

Dramatic images from the scene showed the vehicle had ended up landing on its side, with its windows shattered.

The bus driver was being held at a police station in the city of Tortosa, Mr Jane said. Road conditions were good at the time of the crash and an investigation was looking into the cause of the accident, he said. 

Catalonia’s interior minister, Jordi Jané, told El Pais newspaper: “The bus was moving toward the right and when it brushed against the railing, it swerved with such force that it crossed the median and ended up in the opposite carriageway.” 

It then collided with a car, injuring the occupants. “We will see what the investigation turns up, but the cause looks related to human factors,” Mr Jané added. He said none of the injured were thought to be in a life-threatening condition.

The British Foreign Office said it was “in contact with the relevant authorities in Spain”.