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A bus of tourists in Venice dropped from an elevated road, killing 21 in fiery crash

Emergency services personnel work at the scene of a passenger bus crash that killed 21 people and injured at least 15 others in Venice, Italy, on Tuesday night.
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LaPresse via AP
Emergency services personnel work at the scene of a passenger bus crash that killed 21 people and injured at least 15 others in Venice, Italy, on Tuesday night.

VENICE — A bus carrying dozens of people plummeted 15 meters (50 feet) from an elevated road in Venice, causing a fiery crash that killed 21 people and injured at least 15, mostly foreign tourists returning to a nearby campsite.

Those who died in the Tuesday night crash included at least five Ukrainians, one German citizen and the man who was driving the bus, according to the Venice prefecture.

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." Nine people were in critical condition, hospital officials said later on Wednesday morning, including a 3-year-old girl from Ukraine.

Firefighters worked until dawn Wednesday to clear the wreckage. Later in the morning, traffic was slowly passing the spot where the bus burst through a guardrail and a rusted fence.

The accident scene drew the attention of passersby. A couple of locals said that the overpass was more than 60 years old and that nothing similar had ever happened there, while a man wearing a biker jacket stopped his motorcycle to tie to a post a bouquet of plastic flowers.

The bus was carrying foreign tourists from Venice's Piazzale Roma to the Hu campground on Tuesday evening when it fell from an elevated street next to railway tracks in the borough of Mestre, catching fire. Tourists frequently stay in boroughs across the lagoon from the canals of Venice's famous historic center to find cheaper accommodations.

The injured included French, Spanish, Austrian and Croatian nationals, local officials said. The Spanish Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that two people from Spain were injured in the accident, and both were in hospital and in good condition.

The French Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that there was a French national among the injured. Hospital psychologists were working to help the victims deal with the trauma.

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

Veneto region's governor Luca Zaia said on Wednesday that the dynamic of the accident remained hard to decipher. "Everything makes one think of an illness,″ Zaia said. "The driver was an expert, a good person, very well referenced."

Rescuers noted that the fact that the bus was electric contributed to the massive fire and made rescue operations more difficult.

A witness describes the scene immediately after the crash

Godstime Erheneden was in his apartment near the site when he heard a crash. 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 local newspaper 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 a 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.

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the scene was "apocalyptic" and declared 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 accidentswhen a bus plunged off a viaduct close to the southern city of Avellino.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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