Firefighters work until dawn to remove wreckage of bus carrying tourists in Venice; 21 dead

VENICE – Firefighters worked until dawn Wednesday to remove the wreckage of a bus that crashed in a borough of Venice, Italy, across the lagoon from its historic center, killing 21 people and injuring at least 15, mostly foreign tourists returning to a nearby camping site.

The victims included at least four Ukrainians and a German citizen, according to Venice prefecture. Injured people, including five in serious condition, included French, Spanish and Croatian nationals, local officials said.

At least two of the dead were children, Venice prefect Michele Di Bari said, adding that many of the people involved in the accident were “young.”

The bus — which was new and electric — was carrying foreign tourists when it fell from an elevated street on Tuesday evening, catching fire. The shuttle was connecting Piazzale Roma, in Venice’s historic center, to the Hu campground in Marghera, another borough of Venice neighbouring Mestre.

The Italian driver, Alberto Rizzotto, was killed in the crash. Venice prosecutors are investigating if he felt ill while he was driving. He was an experienced driver, Venice city councilor Renato Boraso said.

Godstime Erheneden was in his apartment near the accident when he heard a crash outside. He rushed outside and was among the first to enter the bus.

“When we went in, we saw the driver right away. He was dead. I carried a woman out on my shoulders, then a man,” Erheneden told the Venice daily il Gazzettino.

“The woman was screaming, “my daughter, my daughter,’ and I went back in. I saw this girl who must have been 2 years old. I have a son who is 1 year and 10 months old, and they are the same size. I felt like I was holding my son in my arms. It was terrible. I don’t know if she survived. I thought she was alive but when the rescuers arrived they took her away immediately,” Erheneden said.

Read More:   2023 was a tragic and bizarre year of wildfires. Will it mark a turning point?

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the scene was “apocalyptic” and declared the city in a state of mourning.

In 2017, 16 people on a bus carrying Hungarian students died in an accident near the northern city of Verona. And in 2013, 40 people were killed in one of Italy’s worst vehicle accidents when a bus plunged off a viaduct close to the southern city of Avellino.