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Belgium: day of national mourning to remember victims of the Switzerland coach crash

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Belgium is holding a day of national mourning by coming to a standstill for a minute’s silence at 11:00 a.m. and with flags being flown at half mast to remember the 28 victims of the Switzerland coach crash.

After the minute’s silence, church bells rang out.

Two planes carrying the bodies of those killed have landed at Melsbroek military airport in Belgium.

The C130 planes left Switzerland following a memorial ceremony.

Twenty-two of those killed when the coach struck the wall of a tunnel on the way back from a school skiing trip were children.

Eight of the injured children were flown home on Thursday, but many survivors are still in hospital.

It has emerged that one of the victims was an 11-year-old British boy who had been a pupil at St. Lambertus School in Heverlee.

Sebastian Bowles’s parents Edward and Ann flew to Brussels on Thursday night after identifying their son’s body in Switzerland, a school spokesman confirmed.

The four most seriously injured children are being treated at hospitals in Lausanne and Bern.

Belgium is holding a day of national mourning to remember the 28 victims of the Switzerland coach crash

Belgium is holding a day of national mourning to remember the 28 victims of the Switzerland coach crash

Family members of the dead children who had travelled to Switzerland visited the crash site on Thursday, some laying flowers in the tunnel.

They also faced the daunting task of identifying their children’s bodies.

Most of the victims of Tuesday night’s disaster were around 12 years old. In addition to the British boy, six of the dead children had Dutch nationality; the others were Belgian.

The authorities have refused to comment on suggestions in Swiss and Belgian media that the coach driver may have been changing a DVD at the time of the crash.

Swiss police spokesman Renato Kalbermatten said CCTV from the tunnel did not confirm the disk theory, which he described as “pure speculation at this stage”.

All the adults on board the coach were killed in the crash.

The group had spent a week skiing in Val d’Anniviers in the Swiss Alps and were travelling home on one of three buses hired by a Christian group. The other two coaches reached Belgium safely.

Those on board the bus that crashed were from the Stekske primary school in Lommel, near the Dutch border, and from St. Lambertus in Heverlee, near Leuven (Louvain).

A memorial service was held in Lommel on Thursday evening.

Police there said 2,500 people attended the service, at St Joseph’s Catholic church next to the school, AFP reports.

Rows of chairs were set up outside the church for residents to watch the service on a large screen.

A message of condolence from Pope Benedict XVI was read out.


A Vatican statement said the Pope was praying for the bereaved families and expressed his deepest sympathy for the injured and the emergency workers. He had conferred a special apostolic blessing on all affected by the tragedy.

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