Six people have been left dead and two injured in north-western Spain after a bus drove off a bridge and plunged into a river
The passenger bus apparently broke through the bridge’s protective barrier, plunging into the overflowing river in Galicia, reported emergency services on December 25, Christmas Day.
Two survivors — the vehicle’s 63-year-old driver and a female passenger — were rescued by firefighters with a rope and taken to nearby hospitals with various injuries.
The driver tested negative for alcohol and drugs, said a police spokesperson.
He added that the search-and-rescue operation around the bridge had now concluded, while engineers attempted to find a way to safely recover the wreckage from the Lerez River.
Bad weather hampered rescue efforts
The river’s strong current, and high flow due to heavy rains sweeping the Galicia region, hampered efforts to retrieve the bodies throughout the weekend.
Authorities confirmed the coach, from the transport company Monbus, was travelling between the cities of Lugo and Vigo on Saturday night and had stopped at a penitentiary centre near the site of the accident.
The bus skidded off a straight road on the bridge for reasons that as yet remain unclear and plunged 40 metres into the water, at around 9:30 pm local time.
Emergency services were first alerted by a call from a passer-by who noticed the bridge’s protective barrier had been severely damaged.
Shortly afterwards, the call centre received a second call from inside the bus saying it was filling up with water.
The river remained above its overflow threshold throughout the night. This forced emergency rescue workers to suspend the operation for nearly two hours before resuming in the morning.
Authorities at first reported a total of nine people were onboard the bus when it fell, based on the driver’s statement, although the count is now believed to have been eight, based on missing person reports filed by relatives.
The regional president of Galicia, Alfonso Rueda, pointed to the “very bad” weather conditions as one of the possible causes of the accident.
Update: The Government delegate in Galicia, José Miñones, confirmed this Monday that the rescue services have found the body of a seventh fatality from the Pontevedra bus accident on Christmas Eve.
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