Sarkozy pays tribute to schoolchildren killed in collision

June 3rd, 2008 - 4:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Paris, June 3 (DPA) French President Nicolas Sarkozy Tuesday paid tribute to seven schoolchildren, aged between 12 years and 14 years, who were killed when a regional train slammed into their bus Monday. Accompanied by education minister Xavier Darcos, farms minister Michel Barnier and the speaker of the National Assembly, Bernard Accoyer, Sarkozy took part in a brief ceremony in a small church in the south-eastern town of Allinges, where the bodies of the victims lay in state.

The French president left the site after about 45 minutes without commenting.

Twenty-five people were injured in the collision, the deadliest accident involving a schoolbus in France in more than 25 years. Three of the injured were said to be in critical condition.

The accident occurred at a level crossing not far from Allinges, on the railway line between Annemasse and Thonon-les-Bains, in the region of Upper Savoy. Two investigations have been opened to determine what caused it.

France Info radio reported Tuesday that initial findings, based on witness accounts, suggest that the driver may have ignored signals and tried to make it across the tracks as the crossing gates were descending.

The bus was transporting 50 students and six adults on a school trip to the picturesque medieval village of Yvoire, on Lake Geneva near Thonon-les-Bains.

The students were all from a school in Margencel, where fellow students and teachers were said to be in a state of shock. Psychological counselling was being offered to the students.

Darcos was to visit the school later Tuesday to meet with students and teachers.

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