Families of the Polish pilgrims killed and injured in a bus crash in France have arrived in the country in search of answers as to what caused the tragedy. At least 26 people died and 24 others were hurt when the vehicle plummeted into a ravine and burst into flames on a road near the southeastern city of Grenoble. Monique Gross, from a French-Polish community association tried to describe what people told her: “I don’t know how some of them managed to get out. One man saw his wife burn to death. Others in hospital couldn’t say what happened.”
Another community representive also had an harrowing account of what occured: “They were driving down the mountain pass, singing religious song when suddenly the driver said I’ve got no brakes, nothing’s happening, so hang-on to what you can. He wasn’t able to take the corner – he went straight off the road.” French officials say the vehicle did not have a special permit required to use the extremely steep road between Grenoble and Gap, a notorious accident blackspot.
Investigators will want to know whether the coach was fitted with the electronic braking system compulsory for excursions into the mountains, amid reports the vehicle was suffering braking problems. Poland’s President, Lech Kaczynski, who has declared three days of national mourning, described the accident as one of the worst in Poland’s history. The pilgrims had been returning from the holy sanctuary of Notre Dame de la Salette in the French Alps.