Eighteen people died and 30 others were injured in one of the worst motorway crashes in Germany’s recent history, when a coach burst into flames after a collision with a lorry in Bavaria on Monday.
Police said a group of 46 passengers and two drivers were on the coach when it caught fire after driving into the back of a slow-moving articulated lorry on the A9, which connects Berlin and Munich via Leipzig and Nuremberg.
The group, aged between 41 and 81, had been on the way to Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake and a popular tourist destination, having departed from the Lausitz region in the east German state of Saxony at 12.30am. Fire services were alerted to the crash at 7am.
“Thirty passengers were taken to hospitals, some with serious injuries. The others are believed to have died in the burning tour bus,” the police said. The vehicle’s driver is believed to be among the dead, while his co-driver survived with serious injuries.
The cause of the fire has been the source of much speculation in the German media, since the coach is believed to have been travelling at a relatively low speed due to a traffic jam when the crash took place.
Local newspaper Frankenpost reported that the lorry, which was loaded with pillows and mattresses, caught fire at the moment of impact.
However, newspaper Bild quoted an insurance expert who cited fire damage to the back of the coach as evidence that the vehicle could already have been on fire at the time of the crash.