Last week The Ski Channel reported on a tragic March 13th bus crash, that killed 22 schoolchildren on their way back from a ski vacation in Switzerland. On Wednesday evening, thousands of mourners, including, Belgium’s King Albert II and Queen Paola, gathered for a memorial service honoring 15 of the 28 victims. The prime ministers of Belgium and The Netherlands, the Swiss President and Dutch royals, led by Crown Prince Willem-Alexander were also in attendance.
The service took place in a filled-to-capacity 5,000 person hall in Lommel — a municipality located in the Belgian province of Limburg. Beginning with a solemn procession, Belgian troops carried 15 coffins into the town’s community center. 14 white coffins marked the child victims, aged 11 or 12, and a brown casket signified their teacher, Raymond Theunis.
Lasting just over three hours, the service was filled with memories from relatives and teachers about those who died in the crash.
“I regret saying horrible things to you at times but I think that’s normal between sisters, isn’t it?” one young girl named Esmee stated in a eulogy to her lost sister, Ilana. “We argued from time to time, didn’t we? But I always loved you more than you ever imagined,” she said, her words relayed on large screens to up to 10,000 people showing support from outside.
Recalling the jovial days preceding the tragedy, ski monitor supervisor, Marina Claes, said, “The snow classes were a true feast. Happy, smiling kids. Excellent weather, great snow.”
In addition to the dead, 24 children were injured in the crash, which occurred when their bus, carrying 52 people, slammed into a tunnel wall. Three girls who survived the crash with serious injuries, woke from an induced coma and were said to be out of danger yesterday. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
In Leuven, close to Brussels, hundreds of students and citizens gathered to pay their respects to the victims of the second school hit by the tragedy. A full memorial service is set for early Thursday.
Our thoughts and prayers remain with the friends and families of the victims at this difficult time.
Feature photo caption/credit: Coffins of the victims in the Swiss bus crash in Lommel, Belgium. Picture: AFP Source: AFP