Death toll rises in Spain bus crash

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Rescuers found the body of a woman in Spain’s northwestern Galicia region on Monday, raising to seven the number who died after a bus plunged into a river on Christmas Eve, police said.

Published: 26 December 2022 14:25 CET

On Monday, rescuers discovered the body of a woman in the Galicia region of northwest Spain, bringing the total number of fatalities from the Christmas Eve bus crash to seven. Photo by Kenny Eliason / Unsplash

The accident happened on Saturday as the bus was crossing a bridge over the Lerez river near Pedre village some 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Santiago de Compostela.

The regional La Voz de Galicia newspaper said the bus had plunged from a height of nearly 30 metres (nearly 100 feet) into the river.

Rescuers located two survivors – the driver and a woman passenger – and found six bodies in searches that continued into Christmas Day, wrapping up rescue efforts in the evening after believing that everyone was accounted for.

But on Monday morning, they resume their search after the passenger who survived said a friend she had been travelling with was not on the list of victims, a Guardia Civil police spokesman said.

“When the injured woman was able to speak, she told us she had been travelling with a friend and that they had been due to have dinner together,” he said.

The woman hadn’t been reported missing as nobody was waiting for her, he said.

“We resumed the search today and the helicopter spotted her body in the river,” he told AFP, saying efforts were under way to extract her body.

“In theory, there shouldn’t be any more people missing.”

Search and rescue operation

The alarm was initially raised by a passing driver who noticed a portion of the safety barrier over the bridge had disappeared, telling the emergency services he feared there had been an accident.

Rescuers then received a call from the bus, which helped them find the wreckage.

But the search had to be suspended overnight due to bad weather, with heavy rain causing the level of the Lerez river to rise sharply.

Investigators are looking into the cause of the accident.

“Weather conditions were very bad that night,” said Galician leader Alfonso Rueda after visiting the site of the accident.

The Voz de Galicia newspaper said among those on board were people who had just visited loved ones at a prison in central Galicia.

The Guardia Civil said the bus driver, who survived, had tested negative for alcohol and drugs. He was released from hospital on Monday, local media said.

Local officials said one of the victims was a young Peruvian woman who worked with elderly people.